Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

The latest from German director Werner Herzog is not a sequel to the 1992 film Bad Lieutenant, directed by Abel Ferrara. In an interview, Herzog has mentioned that he's never seen that film. After seeing Herzog's film The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, it is easy to believe Mr. Herzog. It employs the name simply as a marketing ploy because one of the producers owned the rights. The only other similarity is that each film centers around a police lieutenant that does some very, very bad things...

Nicholas Cage is in top form as Terrance McDonagh, a police officer recently promoted to Lieutenant for his act of bravery in rescuing a prisoner from a rapidly flooding jail cell during the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina. This same act left also left Terrance with a serious case of chronic back pain. I'm not sure if this guy really needed an excuse to be reckless and deviant, but the back pain definitely seemed to be the catalyst for a rapidly deteriorating drug habit, mostly procured from crime scenes and the evidence locker. Staying high pretty much all day long, his methods are questionable at best, and frequently criminal. The narrative focus is on a heinous murder investigation that Terrence is the lead detective on, but the real focus is on Terrance, and the way he deals with his pain, his drunk father, his prostitute girlfriend, his gambling habit, and his drug dealer business partner. In the midst of all this insanity, he still tries to do his job as a detective the best he can.

The tone of this film drifts from serious police drama to dark absurd comedy, leaning more towards the latter. Herzog spends a lot of time entertaining Terrance's periodic hallucinations as well as giving the audience some interesting points of view. Without giving too much away, there are some hilarious shots featuring reptiles, on more than one occasion, that linger to a point beyond comfort and managed to evoke much nervous laughter from my friends and I at our private screening. While I understand that this is pretty far from mainstream entertainment, it's still a shame that not more people are seeing this film.

I'm a big fan of Nicholas Cage. I have been ever since the mid/late nineties, when he gave us The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, and Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead. John Woo's Face/Off is still one of my favorite action films ever, and his over the top performance as criminal mastermind Caster Troy is a joy to watch. It didn't take me long to catch up with some of his other landmark performances, including Leaving Las Vegas, for which he won his Oscar, and his hilarious role in the Coen brothers' Raising Arizona. In the twenty-first century he's given us several good films, including Matchstick Men, Lord of War, The Weather Man, The Family Man, and Adaptation, which features his best performance yet. Sure, he had a bad stretch here recently, late in the decade, but I assure you, Nicholas Cage is back and better than ever! His performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans is completely ridiculous, while at the same time being some how understated. It's a joy to behold, and quite simply Mr. Cage makes this film well worth seeing. I hear his contribution to the upcoming film Kick-Ass is also great, and I look forward to many more great performances from this under-rated actor.

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