Directed By: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Ray Liotta, Jason Patric, Chi McBride
Trivia: Ray Liotta gained 25 lbs. for the role by eating foods heavy in carbohydrates
Right up front, let me be honest and tell you I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Narc, a 2002 thriller that follows two narcotics officers as they traverse the mean streets of Detroit. The synopsis alone had me thinking it was a film I’d probably seen a hundred times before. But while Narc may not be the most original cop story ever told, director Joe Carnahan managed to bring a truckload of style to the telling.
As the movie opens, Det. Sgt. Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), a Detroit undercover narcotics officer, is chasing a drug dealer through the streets. A shootout ensues, and the suspect is killed. However, during the melee, a stray bullet hits a pregnant woman, and as a result, she loses her baby. In anguish, Det. Tellis resigns from the force. Eighteen months later, he’s asked to return to active duty to help track down the killer of another narcotics officer, Michael Calvess (Alan Van Sprang). Calvass' partner, Lt. Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) desperately wants to bring his friend's murderer to justice, and though the investigation leads he and Tellis to many of the city’s seedier neighborhoods, very few clues turn up. Tellis' wife, Audrey (Krista Bridges), begs her husband to once again step down, but it’s too late; he’s personally involved now, and can think of nothing else but finding Calvess’ killer.
Both Patric and Liotta are terrific as the hard-nosed cops who don’t really like each other, and while their tempestuous relationship is one of the film’s strong points, what makes Narc such an interesting motion picture is the energy director Carnahan injects into this tale of redemption and revenge. In many ways, Narc resembles 1971's The French Connection in that it relies heavily on quick edits and hand-held camerawork, which gives the film a documentary-like feel that perfectly complements its gritty, tough-as-nails story. This, together with some shocking violence and a surprising twist at the end, results in a movie more riveting than I ever thought it would be. Narc was a hell of a surprise.