Directed by Joe Carnahan. USA. 2002.

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I have a huge capacity to hate. But there are only a few things that I really hate; parsnip, people who think Tom Hanks is brilliant, people who think Spielberg is the greatest director who ever lived (oops don't tell him about Different Views of Steven Spielberg elsewhere on this website - ed), and Sex and the City. Somewhere in between these two categories lies American cop shows. Not the old ones like Streets Of San Francisco, because although bad, they werenít trying to be anything other than a perfumed, action hour. No, itís the new ones that really take a truncheon to my soul. CSYPD: Homicide On The Street, or whatever itís called, thinks that by adding a wobbly handicam to the mix, it has bought itself some authenticity. For most of the time, itís like watching Beverly Hills 90210 with guns. Full of beautiful people saving other beautiful people from the ugly, bad people whilst spewing moralistic garbage, the programmes counteract their feeble attempts at realism with the almighty whack of television stereotypes. Despite the fact that you should never judge a film by its poster, and despite the huge acclaim Narc had received, I was still sceptical about this film. This was purely because of its name. Narc. I make no apologies for this prejudice, as not only is Narc not a whole word, the name too closely resembles the aforementioned, shallow and formulaic attempts at entertainment.

The film opens with a wobbly handicam following our anti-hero, Jason Patric, chasing a junkie through the worst of Detroitís housing estates. Imagine my utter deflation; all hope for this film had officially just been thrown, stoned head first, through the window. Joe Carnahan then swiftly cuts to 18 months later, and Jason Patric is being questioned about killing a pregnant lady and before I can begin to relocate my presumptions, Carnahan is cutting between Patric shooting up and some truly tender scenes between his wife and child. My hope for the film may have vanished quicker than a line of cocaine on the rough streets of Detroit, but that was precisely what Carnahan wanted. Narc is a film that prides itself in the desolate hopelessness and random tragedy of life, and it does so through the satanic eyes of the narcotics police department.

The film sees Jason Patric rejoin the force with Ray Liotta playing his partner, Henry Oak, as they go in search for the murderer of an undercover officer. These characters really know how to hate, both pumping with disdain for the bureaucratic dishonesty of society. The leads are dangerously convincing in their respective bad cop, worse cop roles, but itís the dignity and humanity Liotta and Patric bring to the film that truly haunts, each hinting at a vulnerability lost through the years of violence and pain of being a narc. A difficult job for any actor, considering Carnahanís brute honesty in portraying the violence and pain. In a world where the bullets fly casually and the blood splashes revoltingly, Carnahan remembers what the cop shows forget- to be authentic, you have to be brave, and to do this, you have to go the whole shit-eating, scum-ridden hog.

Soaked in a flood of icy blue, Narc is suffocated by Carnahanís callous view of the world, allowing for a poetry that scrapes at the heart with a chipped ice pick.

Aaron Asadi
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