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Film / Narc

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Narc is a 2002 crime film written and directed by Joe Carnahan in his first major film production. It stars Jason Patric and Ray Liotta.

The film starts with an undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), pursuing a drug dealer after his cover has been blown, ending in the death of the drug dealer as well as a stray bullet causing the miscarriage of a pregnant woman. Eighteen months later, Tellis is persuaded to investigate the cold-blooded murder of another undercover narcotics officer named Michael Calvess. He is partnered with another detective, Henry Oak (Ray Liotta). Nick Tellis tries to seek out the real reason for Michael Calvess's death behind his partner's back, and we are given a glimpse into the seedy side of police work in a poorer area. The film was well received, and made back twice its fairly modest production cost.


For the Video Game from Williams Electronics, click here.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear:
    • A major example at the beginning of the film. The man Tellis is chasing through the streets runs onto a local playground and grabs a pregnant woman's daughter. He uses her as a human shield while holding a syringe full of narcotics to her throat. Tellis, who is strongly implied to be high on the man's drugs at the time, fires several rounds at him while running frantically. He's able to kill the man and save the child, but he also hits the girl's mother in the thigh. We find out immediately after that this caused her to miscarry.
    • The little girl that Oak tells Tellis about, her mother died and her stepfather pimped her out for drugs.
  • Badass Longcoat: Oak is sporting one throughout the majority of the movie.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Tellis finally gets told the truth of how Calvess died during Oak's last moments of life, and it was all recorded on tape. He is left to choose whether he will give the tape to the police or not. The credits roll before he makes a choice.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Most of the criminals that Oak and Tellis encounter aren’t saints by any means but the two cops, especially Oak aren’t exactly the most morally upstanding cops themselves and they use very extreme methods to get what they want.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The dead body they find in a bath tub had his head obliterated from a shotgun blast.
  • Chase Scene: The film starts off with a very dramatic and powerful one with Tellis and a drug dealer.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: 225 of them to be exact but Oak stands out among the bunch. Almost every sentence he has includes an f-bomb.
  • Crapsack World: The film shows some of the most run down and poverty stricken areas of Detroit. The criminals commit almost every crime in the book and though the cops may not be bad guys themselves, they have NO problem at all breaking the rules to solve their cases.
  • Dirty Cop: Both Oak and Tellis are this, but especially Oak: "The only thing you need to know about me, is that I'm gonna bag the motherfuckers that killed Mike. If that means breaking every point of procedure, then they're broke."
  • Flashback: There are many flashbacks to Calvess's death: some of them come from Tellis's imagination whilst others are showing potential scenarios of what really happened in that tunnel.
  • Friendly Fire: In the aforementioned chase scene, Tellis takes the risk of firing a number of shots whilst running when the drug dealer he's chasing takes a baby hostage. The drug dealer is killed instantly, but one of the other bullet ricochets and hits a pregnant women.
  • Gang Bangers: Deacon, and Darnell and his buddy.
  • Gangsta Style: Tellis holds his gun this way after being taken by surprise for a couple of shots, and hits nothing. He then holds the gun normally and with his second hand for support manages to shoot Darnell in the leg. It's done out of desperation and as a knee jerk reaction, rather than trying to look cool.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Tellis and Oak aren't exactly the movies' nicest cops.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Tellis and Oak investigate a grisly scene with a headless corpse holding a shotgun in a bath tub. We find out that it wasn't a suicide, but an accidental discharge because the man was trying to use the shotgun as a smoking pipe and forgot it was loaded.
  • Internal Affairs: Oak initially questions Tellis, making sure that he's not with Internal Affairs.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: When Oak and Tellis find the two guys that beat up Calvess in the tunnel, they are tied down to chairs and get increasingly worse treatment. Oak ends up punching both of them a lot of times and firing a revolver close to their heads.
  • Jerkass: Both Nick Tellis and Henry Oak themselves enjoying roughing up their suspects when they want to.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: That being said, the two have some redeeming qualities. Both are shown to care for their families; Tellis clearly wants to be a good husband and dad, and Oak is very protective to Calvess' wife and children.
  • Knight Templar: Tellis and Oak might not be fully-fledged bad guys themselves, but they have way too much authority to abuse in their hands.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: Through casual conversation, Oak ends up telling the story of his wife's death to Tellis, and how ever since he's had no reservation in breaking the rules
  • Manly Tears: Oak shreds them after Calvess commits suicide.
  • Morality Pet: Calvess' wife and children are this to Oak. See Parental Substitute below.
  • Never Suicide: Inverted. Henry Oak is investigating his friend's murder but it turns out he was covering up his suicide so that 1) his wife could receive a pension and 2) to frame the drug dealers who supplied him.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Oak beats up a criminal with an eight ball inside a sock after he's been arrested. Oak also beats up Tellis when he begins to suspect him and challenge him. Not to mention the beating Calvess gets before he dies.
    • When Darnell and Latroy mention that Calvess was a junkie who came to them three to four times a day to get a fix, traded police issued guns, cop id’s, and vests when he didn’t have the money to get a fix and says that Oak planted Calvess’s gun in their car (which he did to frame them for the murder of Calvess) Oak wastes no time beating the both of them to a pulp to keep his plan from unraveling.
    • When Oak tells Tellis the story when him and his fellow officers arrested a meth dealer at his house and the dealer was pumping out his 10 year old stepdaughter. Oak after putting her in the squad car went back in the house and “beat the motherfucker half to death” while he was ALSO in cuffs.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Tellis gets lucky when he's shot by Deacon - it results in a relatively minor neck wound. He still has to go to the hospital and take medication though.
  • Papa Wolf: Oak is very protective of children, despite not having any of his own. The violent eight ball beating mentioned above is prompted because the guy on the receiving end is an abusive husband and father.
  • Parental Substitute: It is revealed that Calvess' widow is actually the little girl that Oak saved in the past. He was able to get her clean and set her up with one of his cop friends, Calvess. Everything Oak does in the movie is to take care of her, since he sees her as the daughter he and his late wife never had.
  • Rabid Cop: Tellis, a little; and Oak, much more.
  • Redemption Quest:
    • Tellis's girlfriend accuses his obsession with the Calvess case of being this.
    • Oak's story is basically a Redemption Quest gone very wrong.
  • Sadistic Choice: Tellis is presented with one at the very end. He can either hand over Oak's taped confession, ensuring that the two dealers don't go down for a crime they didn't commit and that Calvess' wife and children get nothing. Or he can conceal the tape, letting the dealers take the fall while the widow receives Calvess's pension to support her and her daughters. The credits roll before he can make a choice.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The movie subverts this more than once.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Depending on what choice Tellis makes, the ending could very well be this. We'll never know.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Far, far on the gritty side. Narc focuses a lot on rough and poverty stricken areas.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: This is a cold and cynical movie.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Once again Oak is the king of this as he brutally beats a guy with an 8 ball inside of a sock for abusing his wife and child even though the guy was already arrested. Also the brutal beating he gives to a meth dealer for pimping out his 10 year old stepdaughter


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