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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Narc
Narc
Paramount // R // June 17, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted June 12, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


"Narc" is a fairly low-budget feature from director Joe Carnahan, whose debut, "Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane" I've never seen. "Narc" was spotted by one Tom Cruise, who championed the picture and brought it to the attention of Paramount Pictures. Although "Narc" didn't gain a great deal of attention at the box office, it did turn a profit and receive strong reviews. When director David Fincher dropped out of the upcoming sequel to "Mission: Impossible", it was Carnahan who got the call to direct.

"Narc" may not be a film without flaw, but it does do a lot right. With a $7.5m budget, director Carnahan has managed to secure strong lead actors, pull together production design and locations that are more than convincingly gritty and tough and put visual tricks to use that add to the movie and don't overpower it. This may be a $7.5m movie, but it looks stronger and has a confidence about it that's very involving. It often reminded me of some of the police dramas of the 70's, which is quite a compliment, given some of the films of that era.

Jason Patric (in his best role since a similar one in 1991's "Rush") plays detective Nick Tellis, who is put on suspension after a chase through the projects goes terribly wrong. When the police force needs an undercover officer to investigate another officer's murder, they bring Tellis back to active duty, given that he was also an undercover narcotics officer and might be able to track down leads. He's paired with the officer's parter, Lt. Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), who is famed for his temper and force.

Once the two try and understand the basics of how the other thinks, they hit the street looking for suspects. In an example of one of the film's fine uses of visual tricks, the film uses split-screen with four screens for a few moments to try and track the two cops tracking down leads. The two officers originally get along, but things begin to turn sour when possible corruption is uncovered. The film seems headed for where most might suspect, but there are a few twists and turns along the way.

Aside from the twists and turns, "Narc" remains as remarkably involving as it is for several reasons. Despite not necessarily being a loud film with constant action and yelling, "Narc" offers a quiet, boiling intensity that's gripping. The film's two performances also compliment each other perfectly. Liotta, who gained weight for the role and looks remarkably intimidating, is strong and has great presence, but thankfully doesn't take things too far over the top. Patric has the more subtle role, but manages to make the character complex and engaging. Both actors perfectly portay the right and wrong sides of each character.

"Narc" is the kind of tough, intense fare that hasn't been seen in quite a while, but Carnahan sure shows skills here. The film boasts a wonderfully cold and gritty atmosphere, two great lead performances and a lot of power and intensity. There's a little stretch in the middle that seems a tad slower than the rest, but overall, this was quite a strong effort.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Narc" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount Home Entertainment. This is one of their finer recent efforts, with only a few minor concerns. Sharpness and definition, aside from a few moments, are first-rate. Fine details are often visible, while the image also usually boasts nice depth and a "film-like" appearance.

What was most pleasing about the transfer was the near-total lack of edge enhancement. Aside from one or two trace appearances, the presentation seemed entirely free of it. No noticable compression artifacts were spotted, either. The print did show a couple of specks and some (probably intentional) grain, but neither were of much concern. The film's cool, subdued color palette seemed accurately presented here, with no concerns.

SOUND: "Narc" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The presentation is surprisingly aggressive for a low-budget feature. The film's soundtrack occasionally does fold up to the front speakers for the dialogue-driven scenes, but the rear speakers do provide some strong reinforcement for the score. During some of the surreal/flashback sequences, the surrounds kick in with some very noticable and effective sound effects. Audio quality is excellent, with occasional strong bass, dynamic and crisp sound effects and natural-sounding dialogue. Despite the low-budget, this is quite a good sound mix.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: Director Joe Carnahan and editor John Gilroy offer a screen-specific commentary for the movie. Carnahan offers a darkly funny and sarcastic track (joking about how they can't swear on the commentary, but curse words still are easily heard from the film's soundtrack), managing some sharp humor about stories from the production while also offering some technical and story details. The two provide plenty of useful information, as they go energetically venture into all aspects of "Narc", from characters to locations to production obstacles to working with the actors. A very good track.

Featurettes: "Narc" includes four fairly lengthy featurettes. "Making the Deal" is how the film came together, with interviews from the stars and director on how they met. In this featurette, we also learn more about the budget, the conception of the movie and the fairly low budget. This piece runs about 13 minutes. "Shooting Up" is a very enjoyable 19-minute piece that goes into honest detail about the conditions that the production encountered with little budget. Once the 8th day of the shoot came around, the filmmakers found out that the money was out. The first part of the featurette (and it should have been expanded upon further) focuses on how the filmmakers worked around and used that lack of funds. The majority of the remainder of the documentary has Carnahan leading us through segments of the story and discussing his inspirations.

"The Visual Trip" is a 13-minute look at the film's cinematography and visual tricks, while "The Friedkin Connection" is a nearly 10-minute featurette that has the "French Connection" director sharing his thoughts on "Narc". "Narc"'s theatrical trailer and trailers for other Paramount films (the entertaining recent theatrical release, "The Italian Job"; the upcoming "Tomb Raider" sequel; the upcoming theatrical film "Timeline", which is an the Crichton novel and finally, soon-to-be-DVD releases "The Core" and "The Hunted") are also included.

Final Thoughts: "Narc" is an intense, somber, gritty police drama that's lead by two stellar performances. Those seeking tough, powerful fare should give it a try. Paramount has delivered a fine DVD edition, with excellent audio/video quality and a few good supplements. Recommended.

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