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Joe Carnahan
Jason Patric, Ray Liotta, Chi McBride
Writing Credits:
Joe Carnahan

When the trail goes cold on a murder investigation of a policeman, an undercover narcotics officer is lured back to the force to help solve the case.

Box Office:
$6.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$63,303 on 6 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 5.1

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 6/17/2003

• Commentary by Writer/Director Joe Carnahan and Editor John Gilroy
Narc: Making The Deal
Narc: Shooting Up
Narc: The Visual Trip
• The Friedkin Connection
• Theatrical Trailer


TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


Narc (2002)

Reviewed by David Williams (June 16, 2003)

The film starts off with an action-packed foot pursuit, as undercover cop Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) is chasing a junkie though a downtown Detroit housing project. Using hand-held cameras and shaky cinematography, writer/director Joe Carnahan throws us right into the middle of the action as he follows the pursuer and the pursued in and out of houses, down pedestrian filled sidewalks, and finally, into a playground when things go from bad to worse. The junkie, having already killed one innocent bystander, takes a young child hostage and Nick won’t stand for it. He squeezes off a couple of shots, with one popping the baddie right between the eyes and the other ricocheting off some playground equipment and accidentally hitting a pregnant woman in the leg. In turn, she loses her unborn child and Nick is suspended from the force because of his questionable use of force.

Months after the accident, Nick is given a shot at redemption, as he’s asked by a civilian oversight board to help in the investigation of a murdered undercover agent. If Nick’s successful, he’ll be reinstated on the force, have his slate wiped clean, and be able to choose his career path within the department. Although Nick has been bonding more and more with his wife and child of late, this shot at redemption … the call of the mean streets … is just too much for a hardcore undercover cop to turn down.

When Tellis goes back to work, he’s teamed with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), the dead officer’s partner who has a bit of a reputation of being an intimidator who feels that rules and procedures are OK to bend as long as the end result works out in your favor. Shoot first and ask questions later is Oak’s creed and he has no qualms telling Tellis that he’ll do whatever it takes to bring his partner’s killers to justice – rules and regulations be dammed.

However, it doesn’t take long for cracks to appear in Oak’s façade that make Tellis start to wonder exactly who (and what) he’s working with. While Tellis is no angel and definitely understands the need to bend the rules on occasion – heck, events in the film show us that he’s a tough undercover cop who’s seen his fair share of the dark underbelly of crime – he really begins to wonder just how far Oak is willing to go in making his case. As the two cops and partners pursue multiple leads throughout the city on the dead cop’s killer, Tellis starts turning a suspicious eye on his partner.

Narc is full of great performances, with one of those coming from Ray Liotta. In my opinion, Liotta is one of the more underappreciated actors working today and given the right role, he can really shine. Thankfully, Narc gives him that role. He’s a hard-nosed, tough, and somewhat perverse cop who can stand over a corpse and laugh his ass off when a theory is thrown out about how he may have accidentally died while trying to get high. He’s full of repressed rage and unexorcised demons and looks like he might go completely off the edge at any second … and you’re pretty sure you don’t want to be on the receiving end of his wrath when he blows. He’s one smarmy statement away from slamming a suspect’s head clear off his shoulders and by watching his performance here, you believe he could actually do it. Co-star Jason Patric does a tremendous job as well, as he plays a cop on the mend who, at times, feels that his past sins are too much to overcome. Patric’s fury is much more reserved than Liotta’s and his character is much more in control of himself than his counterpart. The duo play off of each other well and the performances are definitely complimentary of each other – oil and water, fire and ice – and it works great for the film at hand.

Director Joe Carnahan employs all kinds of visual tricks to help move the story along, as we see hand-held cameras employed throughout, scenes utilizing split-screens, degraded and washed out film stock, heavy filters, and so on. It’s Traffic meets The Shield and it never feels derivative; it’s stylistic choices never used simply to bring attention to themselves. Even so, it’s the story and the acting that make Narc the great film that it is and I can’t recommend a viewing highly enough.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B+ / Bonus B+

Paramount’s DVD presentation of Narc comes in an anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The film has quite a visual flair and it works marvelously for the material at hand. Writer/Director Joe Carnahan and cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy have crafted a stylistically beautiful film that was an absolutely joy to watch and thankfully, Paramount has handled the transfer with kid gloves.

The film contained some slight definition issues that were related as much to the stylistic filters and choices the principals behind the camera made, as much as they were a by-product of the transfer. The film uses lots of stylistic filters to enhance the film and for the cold, Detroit winters, filmmakers decided on some icy blue filtering; when we’re in Tellis’ home, the colors warm up drastically, gradually draining and becoming much more subdued as Tellis becomes more and more wrapped up in his work. The colors always seemed properly balanced and contrasted, with the saturation levels depending on what Carnahan and crew felt would advance the film better. Paramount’s DVD accurately reproduces these hues and it only helps matters that the black levels in the film were very deep and bold, never allowing for any breakup or murkiness whatsoever. The film exhibits superb depth and remains very three-dimensional throughout.

Flaws with the print were minor, as some of the grain noted was more than likely unintentional. I also noted some slight shimmer in a couple of scenes, as well as a print speck here and there. Surprisingly, edge enhancement wasn’t noted at any time in the transfer and Paramount has made sure that no other offenses were included either. All in all, this was one fine-looking transfer.

Narc is a great film and deserving of a great DVD presentation – and thankfully, Paramount has done just that. Paramount has shown that they can run with the big dogs and with transfers like Narc, they show no signs of slowing down.

Narc was a relatively low-rent feature, but that didn’t stop the filmmakers and Paramount from providing DVD viewers with a surprisingly aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer.

The film fits more into the drama genre than it does the action one and as such, the majority of the action takes place in the front surrounds. The front contains excellent separation and dynamics and there were quite a few instances of split surround usage noted during the film. There was a sequence in the film that employed some split-screen panels and Paramount’s track made sure that the dialogue was split as well … flashback sequences light up your surrounds from all directions … gunshots rang out true and clean … apartments, garages, and junkies were all wrecked with appropriate fervor … and ultimately, Narc was a fairly engaging listen.

Dialogue was the main thrust of the film and it remained firmly anchored in the front surrounds, with moments of impressive split dialogue usage and panning. Everything was crisp and clean, without any intelligibility problems at all. The film’s score was backed up with support form the rears, as well as shoring up from the LFE. While the LFE wasn’t a major player in the track, it did an acceptable job of making its presence known from time to time.

The studio has also included Dolby Surround tracks in English and French, as well as English subtitles.

Paramount has done an excellent job of providing some interesting and engaging supplements for Narc, with the first and foremost being an Audio Commentary by writer/director Joe Carnahan and editor John Gilroy. After viewing some of the other features on the disc, you realize how passionate and engaging Carnahan is about the project and that carries over into his commentary. However, many of the issues covered in the commentary are also covered in the other featurettes on the DVD, but as expected, the commentary allows for a bit more discussion on the subjects. The duo offer up some nice anecdotes from behind the scenes, as well as fill us in on how they created the film on such a tight budget. We also get information on casting to location shooting to other, more generic production issues and the two offer up a lot of really nice information about all aspect of Narc and make the commentary a must listen.

The first featurette found on the disc is Making the Deal (13:19) and this serves as our “making of” featurette on Narc. We learn the origins of the script and the film, how certain principals came to star in the film, shooting on location, the shoestring budget for the film and how that affected filming, and so on. This was a pretty good piece that contained some decent information on the production and the hurdles the cast and crew faced. Slightly breezy and back-slappy, but good information nonetheless. Interviews are included with Joe Carnahan (Writer/Director), Ray Liotta (Actor), Jason Patric (Actor), Diane Nabatoff (Producer), and William Friedkin (Filmmaker).

Following is Shooting Up (19:24) and this supplement goes into a bit more detail on how the film came to be made and the tight budgetary issues the film encountered. We learn that money was a day-to-day issue and no one was ever really sure how much they had or when it would run out. We learn that 8 days into the 28-day shoot, the money ran out and Liotta and other discuss how they stayed on anyway because of their belief in the project. The supplement then moves on to a more detailed discussion of certain shots, themes, and inspirations found in the film. Interviews snippets are included from Paula Wagner (Executive Producer), Joe Carnahan (Writer/Director), Ray Liotta (Actor/Producer), Jason Patric (Actor), Tom Cruise (Executive Producer), and Diane Nabatoff (Producer).

The Visual Trip (12:55) is next and it covers the gritty cinematography and visuals we see in the film. Using a combination of interview snippets, as well as clips from the film and behind-the-scenes, we learn how the film was crafted and styled and how the principals wanted the cinematography to help tell the story and set the tone. The discussions on how the film was shot, composed, edited, and processed are very, very interesting and Carnahan has very deliberate and interesting reasons for having the film stylistically look the way it did. This was a superb extra that shouldn’t be missed. Interviews here were conduced with Joe Carnahan (Writer/Director), Alex Nepomniaschy (Director of Photography), and John Gilroy (Editor).

The Friedkin Connection (9:50) is the last featurette and here, William Friedkin discusses his thoughts on Narc. We learn that the filmmakers were heavily influenced by The French Connection and after learning that, Friedkin was able to get his hands on an early copy of the film from his wife and he took a look at it. In this extra, Friedkin discusses the similarities between his film and Narc, as well as his thoughts on the gritty cop realism portrayed.

Under Theatrical Trailer we find the trailer for Narc and under Previews we get trailers for the Paramount theatrical releases The Italian Job, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and Michael Crichton’s Timeline, as well as previews for upcoming Paramount DVDs The Hunted and The Core. Unfortunately, these run as one feature and cannot be selected individually from a menu.

Narc was a great, great film and Paramount has given it a DVD to match. The film alone is reason enough to purchase this DVD, but with Paramount’s excellent audio and video transfers and a nice helping of supplements, they’ve only made the disc that much more attractive. Narc comes highly recommended.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 54
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