Release Date: December 20, 2002
Starring: Ray Liotta, Jason Patric,
Busta Rhymes, and Chi McBride
Genre: Police Thriller
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 105 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Joe Carnahan
Executive Producer: Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner,
David C. Glasser, Randall
Emmett, George Furla, Peter
Block, Michael Z. Gordon, Jeff
G. Waxman, and Adam Stone
Producer: Ray Liotta, Diane Nabatoff,
Michelle Grace, and Julius R.
Writer: Joe Carnahan
Address Comments To:Sherry Lansing, Chairman
Motion Picture Group
A Paramount Communications Company
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
“An undercover [officer] will try to talk his way out of having to ingest anything, but sometimes it can’t be helped,” Detective Merritt says. “When it does happen, an officer immediately reports the incident and can be removed from active duty for up to a month.”
Detective Merritt was a technical consultant on the new police thriller NARC. The movie stars Jason Patric and Ray Liotta as two policemen in Detroit probing the murder of an undercover narcotics officer.
Jason Patric plays Nick Tellis, a narcotics officer suspended for an accidental shooting. Tellis is reluctantly drawn back onto the police force to find the truth behind the apparent murder of another undercover agent, Michael Calvess. The department teams Tellis with Detective Henry Oak (played by Ray Liotta), Michael’s partner and mentor. Oak is relentless and admits to Tellis that he will stop at nothing to nab the person or people who allegedly murdered Michael.
After an initial wariness, the two men begin to work well together, chasing down leads, tracking informants and finally narrowing down their search to a particular drug ring. One of the minor thugs involved in the ring decides he’d rather shoot it out with Tellis and Oak. He gets the worst of it, however, and the department decides the dead man is the killer. They want to close the case, but Tellis and Oak do some further digging. Tellis’s own investigation reveals a secret about Oak and the dead cop’s wife. Further secrets are revealed when the two men narrow their search to two suspects, a couple black drug dealers operating out of a grimy chop shop for stolen vehicles.
The world of NARC is a dark one. Everyone’s guilty at some level, even the good cops. Despite this environment, both Detective Tellis and Detective Oak turn out to be morally sincere people, but Oak is too emotional and Tellis is too cerebral. Both men also turn out to be very secretive, playing things too close to their vests because they don’t trust one another enough. Tragedy, of course, results.
This is pretty provocative, powerful material. Because of this – and exceptional performances by Patric and Liotta – NARC plays like a vigorous, compelling combination of THE FRENCH CONNECTION and SERPICO. Patric and Liotta have never been better (unless you count Liotta’s performance in GOODFELLOWS). The movie is a little too hyperactive, however, as if Joe Carnahan, the writer and director, is not yet confident with smaller dramatic scenes that play more quietly. Also, Carnahan sometimes does not give the proper exposition to some of his story’s twists and turns. The surprise ending does pack a potent dramatic punch, however.
Regrettably, NARC contains a super-abundance of obscenities, more than 275. This may be the most obscenities in any movie in 2002. Furthermore, the bloody scenes in NARC are over the top. Though not really gory per se, they are excessive. More creative filmmaking could have toned down this vulgarity and violence significantly, if not wholly eliminating it. Finally, although it has become an unchangeable convention in gritty police thrillers like NARC that veteran policemen must always have a dark side of corruption to their nature, it would be nice to see a gritty police thriller where they don’t. Because of these problems, moral moviegoers probably will want to avoid NARC, despite its positive qualities.
NARC is a powerful, provocative police thriller. It compares favorably to such movies as THE FRENCH CONNECTION and SERPICO. Patric and Liotta give exceptional performances in a somewhat hyperactive, sometimes confusing story. Regrettably, despite some moral elements, NARC contains more than 275 obscenities, too much bloody violence and a humanist worldview