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Film / Narc (2002)
aka: 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:

  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Oak's death is played rather somberly, especially since it's revealed as he died that all of his actions were to make sure Calvess's family would be taken care of.
    • Both Darnell and Latroy. They are clearly criminals and bad people, who are also believed to be involved with the murder of Calvess. However, seeing them get tied up, helplessly harassed physically and verbally, then get beaten up by Oak (and once by Tellis, when he refused to believe their story) during interrogation, to the point they cried and begged for their lives after Oak starts firing his gun to get their confessions, makes it very hard for viewers to not feel any sympathy for them.
  • Badass Longcoat: Oak is sporting one throughout the majority of the movie.
  • 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.
  • Blood from the Mouth: In the first scene where Nick is chasing a drug dealer during a blown undercover operation. The dealer stabs a random guy as he runs from Nick, and the dude groans in pain while gurgling up blood. It's brutal, unsettling, and effectively sets the tone early on for the rest of the film.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The dead body they find in a bath tub had his head obliterated from a shotgun blast.
  • California Doubling: Toronto stands in for Detroit in some scenes.
  • Chase Scene: The film starts off with a very dramatic and powerful one with Tellis and a drug dealer.
  • The City Narrows: Many scenes take place in severely blighted areas that are barely inhabitable urban crime zones.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: 297 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: This movie storms out of the gate with a jarringly violent scene of a drug deal gone wrong, and really does not let up at all on the negative energy stifling the entire film.
  • 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.
  • Gangbangers: 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.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Oak rescued a little girl from her abusive, meth-dealing stepfather, maintained a relationship with her as she grew up, helped her to get off drugs, and set her up with one of his fellow cops, who she ended up marrying. Then her husband got addicted to drugs, become horribly corrupt to support his habit, and ended up committing suicide. It's implied that Oak blames himself for this, and trying to find some way to set it right is a major part of what drives his actions.
  • 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.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: 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.
  • 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 several times in the head and face and also fires a revolver close to their heads.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both Tellis and Oak are willing to rough up and threaten suspects and Oak is fully willing to plant evidence and extract false confessions. But neither of them is acting out of any kind of greed, or desire for glory. Tellis is just trying to solve the case and be a good husband and dad. Oak is motivated by getting revenge for his partner, and is highly protective of Calvess' family.
  • Knight Templar: Tellis somewhat, Oak much more so. Oak makes clear, from his first scene, that he's focused on his goal and will whatever it takes to get results. He lives up to his word, being absolutely willing to abuse his authority and break every rule in service to what he thinks is important.
  • 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, badges, id’s, cuffs 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 pimping 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. He views Calvess' widow as his surrogate daughter, and will do absolutely anything to protect her, no matter how vicious he has to get.
  • Parental Substitute: It is revealed that Calvess' widow is actually the little girl that Oak saved in the past. He mentioned that he'd wanted to adopt her, and even though he couldn't, he maintained a relationship with her for the rest of his life, seeing her as the daughter he never had.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Oak lets out a major N-bomb while he and Tellis are shaking down Sheps the drug dealer at his apartment.
  • 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 entire movie is a massive deconstruction of this trope. It's set such a terrible environment that getting anything done seems to require doing bad things for the greater good. But the further the protagonists go down that path, the worse things they end up doing, until the line between good guys and bad guys is almost nonexistent.
  • "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 Versus Cynicism: This is a cold and cynical movie.
  • Wicked Stepfather: The little girl that Oak tells Tellis about, her mother died and her stepfather pimped her out for drugs.
  • 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

Alternative Title(s): Narc