Joe Carnahan’s NARC Comes to 4KUHD From Arrow Video

Joe Carnahan’s Narc is the kind of rough and tumble crime movie that leaves the audience feeling just as bruised and battered as its characters. That applies to all of Carnahan’s films, but whether it’s good or bad varies from film to film. In the case of Narc, it’s meant as a compliment. 

Jason Patric stars as narcotics officer Nick Tellis. The film opens with Tellis chasing a drug dealer. It’s a thrilling bit of filmmaking from Carnahan, and a devastating opening scene for the film and Tellis. The story jumps ahead 18 months and Tellis is looking to get off the streets and into a boring (read: safer) desk job. First, he’ll have to team up with Detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) to investigate the murder of Michael Calvess, an undercover officer who got in too deep. It’s about as sturdy as a plot for a cop drama can be. 

Narc features Carnahan’s typical muscular filmmaking. From the kineticism of the opening foot chase to the unflinching confrontations that litter the film, Narc pulses with energy. These characters are livewires and it feels like they could explode at a moment’s notice. That comes through in the performances as well. Tellis is warped by his time undercover and ready to jump at the chance to leave it behind. It’s a fool’s errand, of course. You can’t outrun your past anymore than you make yourself grow a third arm. Tellis’ desperation is reflected back at him in Oak. Patric and Liotta make for great sparring partners. The differences between the two men in stature and demeanor only serve to highlight the similarities that have brought them together. 

The cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy gives the film a starkness and clarity of secrets coming to light. There is nowhere for Tellis and Oak to hide, from themselves or viewers. The inexorable march toward truth gives Narc its ultimate power. Inferior crime stories are content to wallop audiences with twists that provide a sugar high. Cool in the moment, but ultimately hollow. Carnahan’s script drops hints along the way that final reveals will be something that sticks, and he’s right. By the time all the cards are on the table, it’s clear Tellis and Oak were drawing dead the entire time. For these men, their fates were written long ago and all that’s left is a final reckoning. 

For me, Carnahan is at his best when he’s exploring the codes and principals that drive his characters. His films are hyper masculine and the more they lean into that, the better they are. Narc and The Grey fit the bill to a tee. Carnahan loses me when he brings in too much silliness (looking at you, Smokin’ Aces).Narc wears the influence of its 70s forebearers proudly.

I hadn’t seen Narc before but I’m glad the new Arrow 4KUHD release gave me a reason to check it out. The review copy I received only came with the film and the recycled commentary track (which is fun and informative). The 4K restoration looks great. The retail version of this release features a second disc with enough new and old supplements to make this a robust release.

Previous post THE BLUE ANGELS Have Rocketed into IMAX Theaters
Next post Eric Bana is Back on the Case in FORCE OF NATURE: THE DRY 2