Narc (film)

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Narc Poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Produced by Ray Liotta
Julius R. Nasso
Tom Cruise
Paula Wagner
Written by Joe Carnahan
Starring Jason Patric
Ray Liotta
Chi McBride
Busta Rhymes
Music by Cliff Martinez
Cinematography Alex Nepomniaschy
Edited by John Gilroy
Splendid Pictures
Emmett/Furla Films
Tiara Blu Films
Cutting Edge Entertainment
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 17, 2002 (2002-12-17) (limited)
  • January 10, 2003 (2003-01-10) (wide)
Running time
105 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.5 million[3]
Box office $12,633,747[4]

Narc is a 2002 American crime thriller film written and directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. The plot revolves around the efforts of two police detectives in search of the murderer of an undercover police officer. As they investigate, they engage in unethical behavior and uncover dark secrets that will challenge their fragile relationship.


Undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) chases a drug dealer through the streets of Detroit after Tellis' identity has been discovered. The dealer holds a child hostage. Tellis kills the dealer before he can hurt the child. However, a bullet hits the child's pregnant mother, causing her to miscarry.

Eighteen months later, the Detroit Police Department asks Tellis to investigate the murder of undercover narcotics officer, Michael Calvess. Tellis is reluctant. His wife disapproves of the job and wants him at home with their baby. However, there is little else he can do for a living, he reads the case files and takes the case, on two conditions. The first: he will get a desk job if he secures a conviction. The second: detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), whom Tellis is aware of through reading the files on Calvess' death, is partnered with him. Tellis' reason for wanting Oak is his opinion that the only useful evidence in the investigation came from him. The department chief informs Tellis of Oak's reputation as a driven and effective policeman, who is unstable. Despite reservations, Oak is assigned to the case.

The two build a rapport during a violent investigation. Oak is a dedicated haunted cop who uses force on criminals. He believes the department wants the case buried. During the investigation, Oak reveals that his wife died of cancer, and they had no children. He recalls a drug bust decades prior, when he found a ten-year-old girl naked, who had been sold for prostitution by her stepfather for rent money; Oak beat the man bloody. He sees parallels between that case and the current one.

Meanwhile, Tellis' wife is worried for her husband's well-being. Tellis visits Calvess' widow Kathryn, and asks about her and her husband's relationship when he was on the street, hoping to decide about his own life. Oak turns up at the house and is furious that she is persistently interviewed by police. He is protective of Kathryn and her children's safety.

Tellis and Oak visit the scene of an apparent murder of a drug dealer and gun collector, shot dead in his bathtub. Tellis discovers the bullet had no fire-pin mark, and surmises that the man used it as a bong and forgot it was loaded. Once heated, the shotgun discharged, killing the user.

Determining that this lead is fruitless, Tellis and Oak visit the house of a man involved in the shootout that started the film. They find incriminating evidence, but nothing concrete suggests he murdered Calvess, although they find Calvess' badge. The man pulls a gun, wounding Tellis, before Oak kills him in self-defense.

At home, Tellis is confronted by his wife, who can not bear to see him endangering his life and she leaves him. The case is closed, as the deceased suspect is conveniently determined to be Calvess' killer. Tellis and Oak are furious, believing the killer has yet to be found, and they investigate independently.

Oak determines that suspects are in an auto body shop. There, Oak finds and disarms one suspect while Tellis chases another outside and shoots him in the leg. After they are bound, Oak attempts to force a confession out of them. Tellis is increasingly suspicious of Oak's tactics, especially after viewing files that suggest Oak had thrown out prostitution charges for a woman. Oak finds police issue guns in the trunk of one man's car, including one that belonged to Calvess, and he beats both men until Tellis tells him to get CSI tools from the car.

When Oak leaves the room, Tellis locks the door, turns on the tape recorder, and asks for the truth. The dealers explain that Calvess blew Tellis' cover eighteen months before, causing the shootout. They recount Calvess' degeneration into chemical dependency. On the day of the murder, Calvess tried to deal with the two dealers, but it went badly. At that point Oak arrived, having trailed Calvess to confirm rumors that he was an addict. Calvess went for his weapon, which was the dealers' justification for attacking him. The two men ran off as Oak shot at them.

Tellis confronts Oak, telling him that the dealers claim Oak shot at them, hitting one in the shoulder, before murdering Calvess. Oak denies this, then Tellis raises the issue of Oaks' relationship with Calvess' wife Kathryn.

As it turns out, Kathryn was the ten-year-old girl whose father pimped her. Oak considers her the daughter he never had, and has remained close. He has been protecting her by covering crimes she committed in her teenage years. Tellis tells Oak he will make the arrest, and Oak beats him with the shotgun, and resumes brutalizing the dealers. He turns the tape recorder on and attempts to beat a confession out of the men, threatening to shoot them. Tellis breaks into their car, retrieves a gun, calls for back-up, and re-enters the building. He shoots Oak when Oak refuses to put his gun down. Tellis moves to aid Oak, and, realizing he's dying, pleads for the truth of what happened the night Calvess died.

Oak explains (silently, shown in flashback) that Calvess shot at the dealers as they fled from Oak, leaving the shoulder wound. Oak argued with him, explaining that he had had enough of defending Calvess and would turn him in to the Department. In despair, Calvess took his gun and shot himself in Oak's presence. Oak had been protecting his name and family since, so Calvess' wife could receive his pension and support her daughters. If the Department knew it was a suicide, Calvess' wife would not have received the pension. Oak's motive was to convict Mike's "murderers", the dealers who he felt made Mike a junkie. Oak dies in Tellis' arms, leaving the confession on tape. The dealers are arrested and Tellis has minutes to decide whether or not to hand the tape to the police.



Box office[edit]

Narc opened in the U.S on December 17, 2002 in a limited release in 6 theaters and grossed $63,303 with an average of $10,550 per theater and ranking #45 at the box office. The film then had its wide release in 822 theaters and grossed $2,825,807 with an average of $3,437 per theater and ranking #12. The film ended up earning $10,465,659 domestically and $2,168,088 internationally for a total of $12,633,747, doubling its $6.5 million production budget.[5]

Critical response[edit]

Narc received positive reviews from critics and has a "certified fresh" rating of 83% on Rotten tomatoes based on 156 reviews with an average score of 7.1 out of 10. The consensus states "Jason Patric and Ray Liotta are electrifying in this gritty, if a little too familiar, cop drama."[6] The film also has a score of 70 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 34 reviews indicating 'Generally favorable reviews'.[7]


External links[edit]