Straining Day

Narc desperately struggles to prove its grit.


"Cops die daily, and they die bad," barks manic police Lieutenant Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) to undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), revealing both his hardened 'tude and a little confusion when it comes to adverbs. Welcome to Narc, Paramount Pictures' bid for a gritty, post-Training Day dirty-cop thriller -- a passable exercise in the form that's mainly just a competition between Liotta and Patric to see who can shriek the most street-isms per second.

In tone-deaf tune with the warmed-over gangsta dialogue, the essence of Narc is that fuckers keep fucking up each other's fucking shit until every fucking thing gets all fucking fucked up. To deliver this concept, dewy and derivative writer-director Joe Carnahan (Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane) exploits every dose of obnoxious stylistic wankery at his disposal, including loads of redundant flash-frames stuck like Post-It notes throughout a sloppy first-draft screenplay. Authenticity and plausibility get gunned down from the get-go, but if explosive shaky-cam ultraviolence and frequent extreme close-ups of greasy whiskers are your bag, this hyperactive wannabe may count as something of a score.

The movie kicks off with a bloodbath as Tellis endeavors to, you know, bag a perp. Cop and criminal dash through a generic 'hood, a lady screams in Spanish, shots are exchanged, a bystander goes down, and then, to save a child, Tellis blows away the baddie on a playground. Unfortunately for everyone, he also bags a pregnant woman, killing her unborn child. To rehook female audiences, we quickly see sensitive Tellis in the shower with his own baby, then male audiences are efficiently rehooked via a random sportscaster on the soundtrack. A year and a half has passed, and the undercover narc's unexpected early retirement isn't sitting well with him or his unspeakably boring wife, Audrey (Krista Bridges, who you'd think would make more interesting choices after The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy).

The solution, of course, is that street-smart recovering junkie Tellis must take on one last dangerous job before his supervisor, Captain Cheevers (Chi McBride, groaning his way through), will grant him a cushy desk job. A somewhat dirtier cop named Calvess (Alan Van Sprang) has been gunned down in the line of . . . er . . . "duty," so Tellis teams up with dodgy, excessively aggressive Oak to find out who did the whacking. This basically equals the partners shooting and shouting through a pulpy fantasy Detroit, intercut with them feeling, you know, all fucked up and shit.

The whole project feels like a hand-me-down, a derivative movie poster writ large -- moody, mean, and gritty, sure, but also obvious and uninspired to the point of distraction.

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