May 19, 2024

NARC Goes Old School

NARC (Blu-ray)
2002 / 104 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie, the Buttnugget😽

A somewhat forgotten film from the early 2000s, Narc strives for a gritty tone and aesthetic similar to famous crime thrillers of the 1970s. In that respect, it more-or-less succeeds. There are numerous scenes that echo the likes of The French Connection, The Seven Ups and Serpico.  

Unlike those classics, however, Narc doesn’t have a lot of meat on its bones, despite the urgent pace, slick editing and another enjoyable scenery-chewing performance by the late, great Ray Liotta (though his participation does factor into the movie’s predictability). But even if the plot is ultimately much ado about little, the overall movie remains watchable.

Jason Patric plays Nick Tellis, a disgraced undercover detective who lost his job following a botched drug bust that resulted in a pregnant woman getting shot and losing her baby. Eighteen months later, he’s offered a chance to be reinstated if he assists in investigating the murder of another undercover cop, Michael Calvess (Alan van Sprang). One caveat…he has to work with Calvess’ former partner, Henry Oak (Liotta), who’s since become a loose cannon. The department wants the killer found and case closed as quickly as possible.

Over the course of the investigation, the pair follow leads, roust & grill a variety of lowlifes and, of course, clash with each other. Interspersed throughout the narrative are scenes depicting the psychological toll the case has on Tellis and increasingly-estranged wife Audrey (Krista Bridges). Things take a dramatic turn when the investigation leads to two suspects who were there when Calvess was killed, casting doubt on what really happened that day.

Musical chairs turns real.
Narc features suitably seedy Detroit locations and sequences which convincingly reflect the dangers of the job. If nothing else, the film doesn't make being a cop look all that appealing. As such, some scenes carry considerable tension, especially during the final act. However, there isn’t actually all that much action, nor are there many surprises. We’ve seen the whole “troubled cop” schtick before and Patric (always a decent-but-aloof actor) doesn’t quite have the chops to make Tellis very compelling, not helped by a screenplay that fails to expand the character much beyond his past mistakes.

Liotta, on the other hand, gives yet another super-charged performance as Oak. However, his well-earned reputation for playing morally questionable characters sort of undermines the entire narrative. From the minute he shows up on screen, we suspect not all's right with Oak, simply because he’s played by Liotta. Still, he’s the best part of the movie and watching him tear-it-up compensates for the familiar, unremarkable plot.

For its Blu-ray debut, Arrow Video has put together a two-disc set with a nice 4K remaster of the film. The second disc is loaded with new and vintage extras, but not made available for review. 


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a promo disc for review purposes. Physical supplemental material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not available for review.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Joe Carnahan and editor John Gilroy.

INTRODUCTION - By director Joe Carnahan.

DISC TWO SUPPLEMENTS (not reviewed) - Shattering the Blue Line; Shooting Narc; If You Live Another Day; The Journey of the Costume; Making the Deal; The Visual Trip; The Friedkin Connection; Shooting Up; EPK Interviews; Image Gallery; Trailer.


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