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A natural successor to the violent thrillers of the 70s, director Joe Carnahan's breakthrough Narc brings the genre screaming into a new era, setting the standard for the modern cop drama with its gritty, unrelenting tone and style.

In wintry Detroit, narcotics cop Nick Tellis (Jason Patric, The Lost Boys) is recovering from an undercover operation gone wrong. In the hopes of being assigned a quiet desk job, he agrees to return to active duty and partner up with Detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta, Goodfellas) to investigate the apparent murder of Oak's former partner. As both men become lost in the depths of the case, boundaries become blurred, and their relationship begins to vacillate between intensely personal and unsettlingly suspicious.

One of the best crime films of the 21st century, Narc is back in an intense new filmmaker-approved 4K remaster, with brutally immersive Atmos audio, and featuring hours of previously unreleased on-set interviews and brand-new bonus features.

Picture 9/10

Joe Carnahan’s Narc receives a much-needed 4K upgrade from Arrow Video, who present it on the first triple-layer disc of this two-disc set. Presented with Dolby Vision in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 4K restoration performed by Arrow and taken from a scan of the original 35mm negative.

It wasn’t until this release that I realized Narc had not received anything other than a DVD released in North America back in 2003, so it was clearly in need of an update, even if it was just an upgrade to 1080 (I should mention it did receive a Blu-ray release in Australia). It won’t come as a shock when I say the 4K presentation clearly beats out the old DVD (which doesn’t look all that bad for the format, if we’re being honest), but I was still very much surprised by how fresh and new the gritty film comes out through this new presentation.

The difference in visual quality is striking. The 4 K presentation is substantially sharper and crisper, with finer details and textures better rendered, including the film’s grain. The heavy grain, a characteristic of 70’s crime films, is well-preserved, adding to the film's authenticity. With the exception of one sequence (a four-way split screen, the grain is sharp and clean, maintaining a natural look.

The film’s color scheme is a bit scattershot: much of the film has an icier appearance, while other shots, usually interiors, take on something closer to a natural appearance. Either way, the colors look great. It’s evident by the look, but comments in the included features confirm that a bleach-bypass method was used to create the film’s look. This is rarely done with the negatives (Pitch Black is the only one I can think of offhand that did this at the negative stage), so I’m guessing this look was done digitally here since the restoration has been sourced from the negative. Impressively, it looks relatively natural and doesn’t have a digital sheen like other presentations (Memories of Murder comes to mind).

Navy blues can sometimes look a bit muddy (something that could be inherent to the photography), but blacks are rich and inky, with shadow detail looking exceptional. Highlights are still hot, but more detail is present within them, details that were completely blown away on the DVD. Contrast can be vast, and this is where HDR shines, cleanly jumping from those hotter areas of the frame to the darker ones without a sweat.

In all, this looks incredible. The image is far cleaner and has a beautiful film texture without losing its gritty edge.

Audio 8/10

Arrow includes a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack presentation. My system has a 5.1.2 configuration with the Atmos speakers in the front. It’s still a front-heavy soundtrack, with dialogue focused on the fronts. The film’s score, ambient noise, and gunshots make their way to the surrounding speakers with some notable height, but that’s about it. Ultimately, it still sounded like a standard surround presentation to me.

Despite that, the range is still extensive, with a few thunderous bursts and crisp, clear dialogue. Damage is also not an issue. It sounds great, but I can’t say the “upgrade” offers much more than what was already there.

Extras 9/10

Arrow ports over all of Paramount’s DVD content, starting with an audio commentary featuring director Carnahan and editor John Gilroy. It’s a serviceable track targeted towards the “five film students” Carnahan is sure are listening to it. The track focuses on the film primarily from a production perspective, with Carnahan explaining the development of the script, his casting choices, and getting the money together, with Tom Cruise eventually coming in to save the day and push the film. Carnahan and Gilroy also talk about the film’s look and the editing, explaining their choices and the grueling work behind it. There were several unexpected things they had to deal with, a lot of it relating to filming in Toronto. For starters, it was freezing (in a newer interview found elsewhere in the set, Carnahan notes that the location for his later film The Grey was possibly colder, though he doesn’t seem all that sure), and they had to deal with Canadian eccentricities. They missed spelling, like “honour” with the added “u”. However, they did manage to remove all references to hockey that appeared in the background when filming in specific locations. There are also a lot of funny comments, including about the rules that were set while recording the track, including being asked not to swear, despite the incessant f-bombs being dropped throughout the film and still audible in the background of this track.

It's ultimately not the most surprising production-related commentary track I’ve listened to, but it is fun and engaging; Gilroy and Carnahan have great chemistry together.

The second standard Blu-ray disc next includes the rest of the older Paramount features, found under their own sub-menu. They’re all reasonably standard marketing fair, covering various aspects of the film while promoting it simultaneously (despite having already purchased the DVD/Blu-ray/4K or whatever you’re viewing it on). Making the Deal (13 minutes) and Shooting Up (20 minutes) focus heavily on production, from the script to casting, with the latter getting more into the money aspect of things, particularly the trouble in raising it, a common theme through all of the features in this set. The Visual Trip (13 minutes) gets into the look of the film and its editing and is a better-than-average studio featurette, expanding on comments made in the commentary.

The best archival feature may be an interview with director William Friedkin called The Friedkin Way. The director explains how he saw an early version of the film on VHS after being told its director had been influenced by him. This initially turned Friedkin off (he states he hears that all the time and is usually disappointed with the film), but he came out very impressed and decided to put his weight behind it.

At only 10 minutes, it’s not the most insightful piece, obviously, but it was good of Friedkin to sit for it, and his comments are at least interesting. This interview, along with all of the other ones found in these archival features, comes out of more extended solo interviews. In an interesting decision, Arrow includes the raw footage from these interviews filmed between 2001 and 2002, including Friedkin’s. Friedkin’s, running 36 minutes, can be a bit of a trip since we also get the raw footage filmed around the interview. It begins with Friedkin talking about his excitement around upcoming DVD releases for his films To Live and Die in L.A. and Sorcerer, with the interviewer expressing surprise about the latter (that film would not receive a DVD and Blu-ray release until 2014, twelve years later). Friedkin then talks more about Carnahan’s film, getting into more aspects he likes about it, including its European influences. As usual, he can be a bit much, and I see how they edited the finished product to avoid this. Friedkin likes to name-drop (when Henri-Georges Clouzot’s films come up, Friedkin has to awkwardly interject how he personally knew him, shifting the conversation from something interesting). He can also go on tangents, but it’s no less entertaining and far more insightful than the finished 10-minute piece.

The rest of the raw footage all proves to be incredibly insightful as well, and it’s bizarre the stuff the studio ultimately decided not to include in their interviews, opting instead for simple soundbites. Carnahan’s two interviews (one done during production, running 31 minutes, the other during editing and running 71 minutes) are especially dense, with the director talking more about his original short film that influenced Narc, called Gunpoint, and how he shifted the story around (he also explains how he hates that film, which is probably the reason why Arrow has chosen not to included it here). There’s also far more about his influences and the films that greatly affected him. He also expands on how he structured the story and gets into character motivations. Some of this material comes up in a new interview filmed by Arrow with the director. However, I still found it surprising that this material never appeared in any of the features Paramount originally produced.

And the same can be said for the rest. Jason Patric’s 15-minute contribution is probably the biggest bust, as I get the feeling he’d rather be doing something else (and to be fair, I’d probably be the same). At the very least, Liotta is thrilled to sit and discuss the film through two interviews, one shot during filming running 29 minutes (Liotta with a goatee) and another filmed afterward, at 23 minutes (sans goatee). The first is more about the character and story, but the latter focuses on Liotta’s production company and getting the money for the film. In both cases, the actor is passionate about the film—likewise, producer Diane Nabatoff, whose interview runs 22 minutes. Cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy is also here to talk about the film’s look.

Again, these are all studio-produced, so I can understand the low expectations around them. However, it shows how deep and detailed these conversations could get; the studio decided not to bother with most of it. It’s fantastic that Arrow could get their hands on them and include it all here.

Arrow the throws on some exclusive new material. Carnahan provides a short introduction on the first and a new 14-minute interview on the second. In the interview, he expands a little on how the idea of the story came to him before talking about his actors again, expressing how much he misses Liotta. He even spends a bit more time reflecting on his favorite scenes. He also demonstrates a bit on his career since and hints that he feels a bit of regret around some choices he made (he doesn’t get into it, but he was let go from the third Mission: Impossible film over creative differences, for example), though still feels nothing but joy about that point in his career.

It's a wonderful addendum to the commentary track, and Arrow throws in a few other interviews with cast and crew members. I was especially taken by one featuring costume designer Gersha Phillips, who was drawn to the career after seeing the credit for “costume designer” while watching Beaches. She goes over her background and then talks about getting the appropriate look for the characters in the film despite some resistance (Jason Patric was not thrilled with what he was wearing during the film’s opening sequence). She also explains how the film has impacted her career and is surprised when it's pointed out on her resume (it even came up when she went to work on the new Captain America film). She has trouble recalling some film names and such, but it’s a fun discussion, running a brisk 18 minutes.

Actor Krista Bridges then shows up to discuss the film for 16 minutes, talking about her role and working with Patric on their scenes together, who she describes as “intense” (he also had the final say on whether she got the role). Cinematographer Alex Nepomniaschy then participates in a 10-minute audio interview, playing over photos and clips from the film. He talks about the film’s look, including the colors and the use of bleach-bypass. Also, he discusses how the opening shot was captured and all the difficulties around shooting it. This is brought up throughout other interviews, but it was such a taxing and physical task on the camera operators the stunt coordinator ultimately had to take the camera and film the sequence, which involved running with the actors.

The disc then closes with the film’s trailer and a mid-sized image gallery featuring production photos. The limited edition also includes a poster featuring the original poster art on one side and the new art on the other, alongside a 42-page booklet. The booklet consists of an essay on the film by Michelle Kisner, followed by reprints of articles written by Matthew Monagle for The Playlist and David E. Williams for American Cinematographer. There is also a reprint of a 2003 interview with Liotta and archival production notes. As usual from Arrow, it’s a terrific booklet.

Not all of the material is gold, but Arrow has assembled a hell of an edition for the film, with their digging up of the original studio interview footage being especially significant.


Arrow has put together a superb edition of the film. The presentation looks fantastic, and the supplements are extensive and insightful. Any fan of the film should be more than happy with this one.


Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Year: 2002
Time: 105 min.
Series: Arrow Video
Licensor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 21 2024
MSRP: $49.99
4K UHD Blu-ray/Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50/UHD-100
1.85:1 ratio
English 2.0 DTS-HD MA Surround
English 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos
Subtitles: English
Regions A/None
HDR: HDR10Dolby Vision
 Double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh   Illustrated collectors' booklet featuring new writing by Michelle Kisner, producer Diane Nabatoff and archival interviews and articles   Archival feature commentary with director Joe Carnahan and editor John Gilroy   Brand new introduction from director Joe Carnahan   Shattering the Blue Line, a newly filmed interview with director Joe Carnahan   Shooting Narc, a newly filmed interview with director of photography Alex Nepomniaschy   If You Live Another Day, a newly filmed interview with actor Krista Bridges   The Journey of the Costume, a newly filmed interview with costume designer Gersha Phillips   Making the Deal, a vintage promotional featurette looking at the making of the film   The Visual Trip, a vintage promotional featurette looking at the look of the film   The Friedkin Connection, a vintage promotional featurette interviewing William Friedkin and discussing the connections between his body of work and Narc   Shooting Up, a vintage promotional featurette looking at the making of the film   Vintage EPK interviews with Joe Carnahan, Ray Liotta, Jason Patric, Diane Nabatoff, Alex Nepomniaschy and William Friedkin   Theatrical trailer   Image gallery