NARC - Production Notes

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Production Notes

In homage to such classic films as “The French Connection” and “Serpico,” writer/director Joe Carnahan’s “Narc” explores the dark underbelly of the drug world with a compelling story about the intense psyche behind those individuals called “narcs,” undercover officers who put themselves on the front lines of the war against drugs. Chipping away at the number of dealers on the streets, these brave men and women leave their loved ones behind each day as they throw themselves into the brutal world of drug abuse for one purpose only…to end it.

“Narc” tells the story of suspended undercover narcotics officer, Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), who is reluctantly drawn back onto the force to find the truth behind the murder of a young police officer killed in the line of duty. He is teamed with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), the slain officer’s partner, a rogue cop who will stop at nothing to avenge his friend’s death. As Tellis and Oak unravel the case, the dark underbelly of the narcotics world reveals itself in surprising ways that are more twisted than either officer has seen before…and the mystery that slowly reveals itself threatens to destroy them both.

Nominated for the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and winner of the Special Prize Policier Award at the Cognac Film Festival in France, “Narc” is written and directed by an innovative new voice in filmmaking, Joe Carnahan (“Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane”). The film stars Jason Patric (“Your Friends & Neighbors,” “Rush”) and Ray Liotta (“Hannibal,” “Goodfellas”). An intense adrenaline rush from the first heart-stopping chase scene to the stunning dramatic climax, this taut police thriller also features rap artist Busta Rhymes (“Finding Forester,” “Shaft”) and Chi McBride (“Undercover Brother”).


When a drug bust goes awry and a pregnant woman is shot, undercover narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) is suspended from the Detroit Police Force. With a baby of his own and a wife who has seen him tortured by the horrific incident, Tellis is not anxious to go back onto the force, but he doesn’t know any other kind of work that can fulfill him.
Now it is eighteen months after his suspension, and Tellis is brought before a review board and told he is needed to help crack a homicide case. A rookie undercover officer has been killed, and if Tellis takes on the assignment and apprehends a suspect, he is told he can have the assignment of his choosing and all the charges against him will be dismissed.

Homicide Detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), the slain officer’s partner and mentor, is a bare bones, brass knuckles cop who has been leading the murder investigation. A respected officer, who brings in solid collars with a 93% conviction rate, Oak has become increasingly volatile and aggressive since the trail of clues in the case has gone cold. In fact, for over sixty days, there has been no tangible evidence or a single suspect uncovered.


Despite his wife’s concerns about his mental stability if he goes back undercover, Tellis teams up with Oak, whose heavy-handed, and often brutal style, is difficult for Tellis to handle. Still, somehow the two men begin to work together, chasing down leads, tracking informants and finally zeroing in on two primary suspects, drug dealers Beery (Busta Rhymes) and Steeds (Richard Chevolleau), who operate out of a grimy Detroit chop shop.

As Oak browbeats Beery and Steeds for a confession, the true story of how the young officer was killed slowly comes into focus…and the truth is nothing less than shocking.

Inspired by a critically acclaimed documentary, “The Thin Blue Line,” about an actual slaying of a Dallas police officer in 1976, writer/director Joe Carnahan first developed “Narc” in 1994 as a short film entitled “Gun Point.” But the young filmmaker still had a fascination for the subject and wanted to expand the 30-minute short into a feature film that could delve deeper into a complicated murder investigation.
“The story just stuck with me,” remembers Carnahan. “It had a resonance that I really wanted to go back to, which is rare for me. In fact, usually I write something and it’s out of my system, but in this particular case, I felt there were things worth mining cinematically.”

Expanding “Gun Point” into “Narc” and developing it into a film in which a very dark event slowly comes to light from different points of view, Carnahan set his story in the mean streets of Detroit and centered it around a disgraced police officer who makes his way through the gritty drug underworld in search of not only the truth about what happened to the slain officer, but also his own inner truth.

“I was just blown away by the script,” says Ray Liotta, who was looking for a quality screenplay to begin his venture into producing. “I loved the way it leads you in different directions. It’s structured in such a way that it kept me guessing so that I never saw the end coming.”

Liotta adds that he also liked the depth that Carnahan wrote into each character. “Both Tellis and Oak, are such complicated souls, and actors just don’t come across roles like these very often,” says Liotta. “Too many characters are written as either black or white, but these guys have a lot of underlying gray to them that makes them more real.”

According to Carnahan, none of his characters are exactly who they appear to be on the surface because people in real life are holding in a lot of emotions.
“Nick Tellis, for example, is a very basic, decent man at heart, who is very troubled,” says Carnahan. “Like all of us at one time or another, he made a mistake, and now he has to live with it. He becomes a tortured soul, and Jason Patric portrays him with such an intensity and intelligence that I feel honored and flattered that he made this character a part of his body of work.” Read On....



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