Narc (2002)

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Released 6-Apr-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-John Carnahan (Writer/Director) & John Gilroy (Editor)
Featurette-Making The Deal
Featurette-Shooting Up
Featurette-The Visual Trip
Featurette-The Friedkin Connection
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 100:56 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Joe Carnahan

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Ray Liotta
Jason Patric
Lloyd Adams
Meagan Issa
Lina Felice
Alan C. Peterson
Karen Robinson
Chi McBride
Booth Savage
Alan Van Sprang
Gavyn Donaldson
Myles Donaldson
Krista Bridges
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Cliff Martinez

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Narc is an impressive second feature from director Joe Carnahan (currently working on Mission: Impossible 3). Shot on a (relatively) modest independent film budget in a slight twenty-nine days, it is stylish, gritty and can hold its head high amongst the best of tough-cop movies. The extensive use of hand-held cameras throughout the film lend it an air of realism so often lacking in the bigger Hollywood films of the genre. The use of a heavy blue-grey colour palette perfectly captures the dreary, winter landscape of Detroit (albeit the majority of the filming actually took place in Toronto, due to cost constraints). Picked up for distribution by Paramount, the studio thankfully managed to secure it a reasonably wide theatrical release, and it garnered a fair amount of critical acclaim. On this DVD it is presented beautifully and features good audio and visuals, along with a substantial extras package.

    Jason Patric (Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Lost Boys) plays Nick Tellis, an undercover police officer who has been removed from active duty following the accidental killing of a pregnant woman during a (superbly realised) foot chase through the housing estates of Detroit. His undercover work, and the accidental killing, have taken their toll on Tellis. He is damaged goods - it seems his cover as a junkie encroached a little too much into his real life for the comfort of Tellis and his wife (Krista Bridges). He is offered the chance to resume active duty - and score a desk job as a detective - provided he works one last case on the streets. Somewhat reluctantly he accepts, despite his wife's deep disapproval.

    The job requires him to partner with the volatile Henry Oak, played by the often excellent Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Identity). Oak has been furiously investigating the drug-related slaying of his former partner Calvess, but has been unable to discover the identity of the killers. Tellis soon realises that Oak is unstable and seemingly obsessed with finding his partner's killer. His unorthodox and often violent approach to crime-busting does not sit well with the honest and ethical Tellis. The two cops begin the seedy process of identifying suspects, uncovering leads and wading through the sordid drug community in an attempt to find the killers. There are a couple of unexpected twists thrown into the mix along the way, which will keep you guessing until the mystery is solved in the final reel.

    This film is primarily a character-driven study of the two main protagonists. Liotta is as good here as he has ever been - there is something about his eyes and his overall demeanour which makes him perfectly suited to the flawed, violent persona of Oak. The real surprise for me was the excellent portrayal of Tellis by Jason Patric. He plays the troubled but truthful cop with a great degree of credibility, looking for all the world like a man who has been working undercover all his life. The highly stylised cinematography, colour processing and split-screen effects are very reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, with its strained colour palette and shaky camerawork. Stylish, violent and fast-paced - whilst not quite a classic, Narc certainly manages to make it into the first division of crime films. Highly recommended for fans of the cinema-verité style, and for lovers of gritty urban crime stories.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality of this transfer is generally very good indeed. It is presented 16x9 enhanced in a measured aspect ratio of 1.82:1, which is almost the same as the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The overall transfer, whilst generally excellent, does have one or two instances of noticeable grain, for instance in the sky at at 1:30 and 33:58, or on the garage walls at 67:35. Sharpness is generally very good, although focus is (intentionally) lost in several scenes - most notably the tunnel scenes.

    Black levels are very deep and solid, without any sign of of low level noise. The shadow detail is generally very good throughout, but this is a dark movie and is best viewed in a fully darkened room to appreciate the film at its best. Colours are desaturated and lean very heavily towards the blue end of the spectrum. This is not a fault of the transfer, being very clearly the artistic choice of the director. They give an icy edge to the depressing Detroit landscape and a very distinctive look to the entire piece. Skin tones are hard to judge due to the heavily modified colour palette used.�

    There are no noticeable MPEG artefacts to spoil the transfer. Edge enhancement was minor, but could be noticed reasonably frequently if you looked quite hard - for instance on Liotta's coat at 28:24 and 83:40, the trousers at 34:39 or the police uniform at 61:45 as a bright halo. On my system I spotted no significant aliasing at all. There is some minor telecine wobble evident in the opening titles, but it does not remain noticeable once the feature starts.

    The transfer is virtually free from film artefacts and I did not notice any significant problems. This is a very clean transfer - even for such a recent film.

    The English subtitles for the Hearing Impaired are well timed and legible, but they are not very accurate and drop or paraphrase quite a few lines for the sake of brevity. There is at least one error in the subtitling - at 85:47, where Tellis says "They sealed the records until she was eighteen", the subtitles incorrectly state "I've seen the records till she was eighteen". Audio cues are very few and far between, and in fact I did not come across any in the thirty minutes or so of subtitles which I sampled (across the disc).

    This disc is single sided and dual layered, but I did not notice the layer change on my set up.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The overall audio transfer is very good.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is encoded at 448 kbps. It is free from major defects, with no clicks, pops or dropouts noticed. Dialogue was usually very clear, although the effects of drugs, beatings and emotion can occasionally make some lines a little hard to make out. This is not a fault of the transfer, it simply reflects the realism of the action. Dialogue is never overpowered by the musical score. Audio sync was fine at all times.

    The original music is credited to Cliff Martinez (Solaris and Sex, Lies and Videotape) - a Soderbergh favourite. It is an interesting score, making use of a wide range of unusual sounds to give the film a very urban, post-industrial feel. There are also numerous pop music numbers in the film (although none of them were familiar to me), generally of the hip-hop style including Bladow!! by Busta Rhymes, who also stars (surprise, surprise as a black thug) in the movie. The soundtrack complements the on-screen activity very well, and lends a suitably oppressive urban vibe to the gritty imagery.

    The soundstage is highly enveloping and highly atmospheric throughout. The front speakers transmit the all-important dialogue cleanly, but also provide some nice panning and separation across the front soundstage. The separation across the front soundstage is very well demonstrated when the cops are "tossing" the garage around 68:00, with some very nice localised effects in the front speakers. There is a very natural feel to the front stage - the dripping water and echoing voices in the garage around 67:00 are a great example of the clarity of this track.

    The surround speakers are used to provide ambience and carry the musical score, and there is also some nice (albeit sporadic) use of localised sound effects (for example the bullet ricochets around 66:00 and the gunfight at 92:00) and front to rear panning (for example when the gun falls in slow motion at 13:15). They are most frequently used to fill out the stage, rather than dazzle with their directional prowess - there is nothing gimmicky about this audio transfer. Gunshots can be startlingly loud - they certainly made me jump on more than one occasion - and will certainly make the most of your amplifier's abilities.

    The subwoofer is hardly used at all - despite the presence of quite a few bass-heavy musical numbers. On my system it did not detect a signal until about ninety minutes into the film. Depending on your crossover set-up, your mileage may vary. This is effectively a 5.0 soundtrack, which is a shame as there are plenty of opportunities for some great LFE bass rumblings here. Even without heavy subwoofer use however, the soundtrack does not sound at all tinny - it is still very satisfying .

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are quite a few extras present, and I found them all to be of high quality - much more than your standard EPK filler.


    The main menu is an evocative, sepia-toned affair with clips of the video accompanied by a short loop of the theme music. It allows the usual options of playing the feature, selecting one of fifteen chapter stops, language and subtitle selection or viewing the collection of extra features.

Audio Commentary

    Available with optional subtitles, director John Carnahan is joined by editor John Gilroy in providing a rather interesting commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps. There is a lot of genuinely informative material covered, and yet it still remains quite light-hearted despite the gloomy themes of the film. Carnahan is not afraid of taking the Mickey out of his own arty pretensions, and it makes the commentary all the more fun. Worth a listen.

Narc: Making The Deal

    Running for 13:20, this is much more detailed than typical EPK fluff as Carnahan talks about how the idea for the film originated. He discusses the process of getting the film made, and is joined by comments from the cast and crew. Presented at 1.33:1 with letterboxed inserts from the movie and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps, available with subtitles.

Narc: Shooting Up

    Running for 19:26, the executive producers (Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner) provide some information on how the funds were raised, whilst the director gives more insight into the trials of the filmmaking process. Ray Liotta is credited as one of the producers of the film, and he too provides some insight into the fiscal side of things. Presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps, available with subtitles.

Narc: The Visual Trip

    This featurette runs for 12:57, and discusses the visual style of the film - the editing, set design and of course the colour processing. Very interesting. Presented at 1.33:1, with letterboxed inserts and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps, available with subtitles.

The Friedkin Connection

    Director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist, Rules of Engagement) waxes lyrical about the film. He is clearly very impressed both with this picture, and with Carnahan (who was in part inspired by The French Connection) in general. Running for 9:51, this is a flattering testament to Carnahan's potential. Presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps, available with subtitles.

Theatrical Trailer

    Running for 2:26 this trailer is presented letterboxed (not 16x9 enhanced) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The extras on the Region 1 versions of this film appear to be identical to our own, so buy whichever version can be found more cheaply.


    Narc is a refreshingly shot urban crime drama. The unlikely pairing of Liotta and Patric works surprisingly well, with each putting in a noteworthy performance. The characters are credible, the storyline realistic and the cinematography (whilst heavily stylised) well suited to the subject matter. Whilst not quite a classic - and perhaps just a tad overlong - this film is highly recommended for fans of Liotta or violent but realistic undercover cop stories.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio transfer is very good.

    The extras are quite numerous, informative and well worth viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R1 has.. -
Narc...same as R1? - REPLY POSTED