Narc (film)

Narc is a 2002 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta. The plot revolves around the efforts of two police detectives in search of the murderer of an undercover police officer. As they investigate, they engage in unethical behavior and uncover dark secrets that will challenge their fragile relationship.

Narc Poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byJoe Carnahan
Produced by
Written byJoe Carnahan
Music byCliff Martinez
CinematographyAlex Nepomniaschy
Edited byJohn Gilroy
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 17, 2002 (2002-12-17) (limited)
  • January 10, 2003 (2003-01-10) (wide)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.5 million[1]
Box office$12.6 million[1]


Undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis chases a drug dealer through the streets of Detroit. Tellis shoots and kills the dealer when he holds a child hostage, but a stray bullet hits the child's pregnant mother, causing her to miscarry. Eighteen months later, Tellis is tasked with investigating the murder of an undercover officer, Michael Calvess. Tellis reluctantly agrees to take the case on two conditions: that he will get a desk job if he secures a conviction, and that he is partnered with Detective Henry Oak, whom Tellis has read about in the Calvess case file. The police chief accepts Tellis' conditions, but warns him about Oak's instability.

During their first meeting, Oak reveals to Tellis his belief that the department wants the Calvess case buried and it is all about politics. The detectives visit the scene where a drug dealer has been shot dead in his bathtub, which Tellis surmises the death was accidental. Tellis notes that the shotgun at the scene is a SWAT weapon with the serial number filed off.

While the partners have a discussion about family, Oak recalls a drug bust decades prior, where he found a 10-year-old girl who was being sold into prostitution by her stepfather, resulting in Oak beating the man; he sees parallels with the current case. Tellis visits Calvess' widow Kathryn, and asks about her relationship with her husband while he was on the street. Oak, who is protective of Calvess' family, turns up at the house and angrily confronts Tellis.

The detectives next visit the home of a man involved in Tellis' shooting. Although they find no evidence to suggest he murdered Calvess, they find another officer's badge on the premises. The man pulls a gun and wounds Tellis before Oak kills him in self-defense. The case assailant is determined to be Calvess' killer and the case is closed. However, Tellis and Oak are furious as they believe the killer is yet to be found, and continue to investigate independently.

When the detectives visit an auto body shop, Oak attempts to force a confession out of a pair of suspects. Tellis is increasingly suspicious of Oak's tactics. Oak finds police-issue guns in a car belonging to one of the suspects, including one that belonged to Calvess. He beats both men until Tellis tells him to get CSI tools from the car.

When Oak leaves the room, Tellis locks the door and asks for the truth from the suspects. They explain that Calvess, who had fallen into drug addiction, blew Tellis' cover eighteen months before and caused the shooting. On the day of the murder, Calvess tried to deal with the two dealers, but it went badly.

Oak arrives, having trailed Calvess to confirm rumors that he was an addict. Calvess went for his weapon, which was the dealers' justification for attacking him. The two men ran off as Oak shot at them. Tellis confronts Oak and accuses him of murdering Calvess, which Oak denies. Tellis then raises the issue of Oaks' relationship with Calvess' wife Kathryn.

Kathryn was the ten-year-old girl who was pimped out by her stepfather. Oak considers her the daughter he never had, and has remained close. He has been protecting her by covering crimes she committed in her teenage years. Tellis tells Oak he will make the arrest, and Oak beats him with the shotgun, and resumes brutalizing the dealers.

He turns the tape recorder on and attempts to beat a confession out of the men, threatening to shoot them. Tellis breaks into their car, retrieves a gun, calls for back-up, and re-enters the building. He shoots Oak when Oak refuses to put his gun down. Tellis moves to aid Oak, and, realizing he's dying, pleads for the truth of what happened the night Calvess died.

Oak explains that Calvess shot at the dealers as they fled from Oak, leaving the shoulder wound. Oak argued with him, explaining that he had had enough of defending Calvess and would turn him in to the department. In despair, Calvess took his gun and shot himself. Oak had been protecting his name and family, so Calvess' wife could receive his pension. Oak's motive was to convict the dealers who he felt made Mike a junkie. Oak dies in Tellis' arms, leaving the confession on tape, and Tellis with only moments to decide what to do with it.



Box officeEdit

Narc opened in the U.S on December 17, 2002 in a limited release in 6 theaters and grossed $63,303 with an average of $10,550 per theater and ranking #45 at the box office. The film then had its wide release in 822 theaters and grossed $2,825,807 with an average of $3,437 per theater and ranking #12. The film ended up earning $10,465,659 domestically and $2,168,088 internationally for a total of $12,633,747, doubling its $6.5 million production budget.[1]

Critical responseEdit

Narc received positive reviews from critics and has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 158 reviews with an average score of 7.13 out of 10. The consensus states "Jason Patric and Ray Liotta are electrifying in this gritty, if a little too familiar, cop drama."[2] The film also has a score of 70 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 34 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3]


  1. ^ a b c d "Narc (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  2. ^ "Narc (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  3. ^ "Narc Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 18, 2014.

External linksEdit