Narc is an intense, powerful film that holds your
attention from the first moments right up until the last frame.
The film’s two leads give powerhouse performances that go
deep into feelings of pain, loss, and violence. It also introduces
to the world a young writer/director named Joe Carnahan
who has managed to do something I thought was impossible:
inject some life into the cop genre.
Detective Nick Tellis (Patric) used to be an undercover
narcotics agent. He was removed from duty after inadvertently
hitting a woman with a stray bullet while firing on a suspect.
After months living on his pension he is given an opportunity
to have a full reinstatement to his former position. All he
has to do is assist the department with the investigation
of the murder of another cop, Michael Calvess. Tellis looks
through the files, and envisions the horrific final moments
Meanwhile, at his home Tellis’s wife is struggling with him
going back to work. Having gone through life with a husband
doing deep undercover work, she doesn’t want to revisit that
particular hell. Tellis tries to tell her that it’s just some
work; that he’s just helping with this case and not going
While going through the files Tellis notices that the lead
investigator on most of the early work was a Detective Henry
Oak (Liotta). He tells the police chief (McBride)
that the best chance they have is for Oak to be on the case,
but the chief will only let the violence-prone Oak back onto
the case if Tellis agrees to go on active duty, as Oak’s partner.
Even though he knows his wife is against it, Tellis agrees.
He desperately wants to help catch whoever killed this police
officer, husband, and father.
So Tellis meets Oak and learns that Oak is a man who wants
justice, whether or not he has to break the law to get it.
Oak has little to live for, and therefore little to be scared
of, so nothing holds him back from throwing everything he
has into his job. Tellis and Oak then go about unraveling
the twisted events that led up to the day of Calvess’s murder.
The interesting story about Narc is that it was made
on a very low budget, very quickly, and premiered at the Sundance
film festival where no one wanted to buy it for distribution.
It wasn’t until Tom Cruise—yes that Tom Cruise—saw
it that things started to go well for Narc. Cruise
loved it and threw his support behind the film as an executive
producer. With his name attached to Narc, Paramount
decided to release the film. After you see Narc you
understand why a studio would be wary of it. The feel-good
film of the year this is not. Narc is very much in
the style of the ’70s films like The French Connection
and Detective Henry Oak is an anti-hero in the most literal
sense. Liotta plays Oak with so much passion and intensity
that I identified with him even in his most monstrous moments.
Narc is Patric’s first major film in several years.
It makes you remember how good he can be, even if he did choose
to be in the unfortunate Speed 2. The anguish in his
eyes in the film’s final moments could hit someone in the
Joe Carnahan has crafted the first inventive, fresh cop movie
in many years. Not only is it one of the best films of 2002,
it’s one of the best gritty cop movies of all time. In a season
where movies like National Security and Kangaroo
Jack rule the screens, thank God for this intense, adult