NARC is one of the finest police dramas I have seen. If you enjoy the genre, films such as FRENCH CONNECTION, SERPICO and COPLAND, then this is unmissable. Powerhouse performances, assured direction from a debut film-maker and a script that rewards everyone involved. It’s a gritty, 70’s style, look at a damaged, single-minded detective who’s given a particularly twisted case to unpick. It’s his penance for a tragic on-duty mistake. It stars the ever-watchable Jason Patric as the aforementioned detective, and Ray Liotta, almost unrecognisable as boiling mass of vengeful cop that Patric’s character shadows on the case.
Okay Adam, why review this films DVD commentary? Well NARC holds added relevance to film-makers in that it was a film made with sticking tape and elbow grease. A production that ran out of money and ended up being supported by its stars. Stars who deferred payment and ended up manning the phones, themselves, to get more backers in. This is the low-budget feature that has Tom Cruise as an exec producer . . . . . okay, now you are at least intrigued, yes? With that much background to the film’s production, the commentary could be quite informative, maybe a little film-schoolesque, like Robert Rodriguez maybe? Well, it’s not going to inform as much as MARIACHI or DESPERADO would but, thanks to the guys involved, you get a real grounding in how the film was achieved, combined with a genuinely funny director.
The director of this flick is Joe Carnahan (A-TEAM, SHOOTING ACES) and, paired with Editor John Gilroy on the gab track, the laughs start before the production credits have finished. For every insight into the speedy shoot, Carnahan mock-berates his experience as a director, reveals the comedic events that happened after the cameras stopped rolling, or just plain goofs around. Its infectious stuff, with Gilroy matching him for digs and giggles. There are scenes filmed with members of the public, who were unaware that the “policeman” questioning them was Patric (with a borrowed cop badge) while other moments were caught in derelict buildings housing “interesting” dwellers. One moment the guys are explaining how they cheated a shot, the next they are explaining how the actors improvised moments with the child actors that appear in the flick.
Now, by stating Joe’s other films, I may have put some readers off this flick. After all, neither of his two, later, films have set critics ablaze. So I will add that the template that the film-makers aspired to was of William Friedkin’s THE FRENCH CONNECTION and the director, once he had seen NARC was sufficiently impressed enough to agree to a short discussion piece (also included on the DVD release) where he covered the stylistic similarities between the two flicks. So there.
Great overlooked film, great overlooked commentary.