DVD Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Scene from the film.
Roger Ebert named this film as the best of 2009. At first, I thought it was because the film's director was one of Ebert's best friends. After seeing it for myself, I have to admit that this film was fantastic.
Directed by Werner Herzog, this film is basically a remake of 1992's BAD LIEUTENANT starring
Harvey Keitel. I'm sorry to report that this film isn't better than the original. The character is the same except for geographical differences. Keitel's film was set in New York, whereas this film, which stars Nicholas Cage, is set in Louisana.
Herzog also isn't as risque as the original director Abel Ferrara. In 1992, Ferrara's independent film was so bold and shocking that it garnered a NC-17 rating. Herzog's film gets a R rating, which still leaves room for a lot of bad behavior, but not the bad behavior exhibited in Ferrara's film. For example, in Herzog's film, you won't see the full frontal male nudity and masturbation that we got in Ferrara's. You won't see the mental breakdown, the blasphemy, and even the executions.
If I had any kind of criticism for this film is that it doesn't go far enough in depicting the extreme bad behavior that we got in the 1992 film. Nevertheless, Nicholas Cage's performance is so compelling as the drug-addled, gambling-addicted cop investigating a series of murders that you can't help but be entertained from beginning to end.
Nicholas Cage plays Terence McDonagh, a homicide detective living in post-Hurricane Katrina.
Herzog brilliantlys interweaves shots of animals, most often reptiles or water-based animals
not only to reflect that but also to reflect Terence's moods or states of mind. He opens with a shot of a serpent slithering through dirty waters inside a flooded prison. Terence has horrible back pains and most likely first became addicted to them, but like the original film, the lieutenant now sniffs coke before going to a crime scene just to get through it.
Terence's case revolves around investigating the execution-style murders of some illegal
immigrants at the hands of heroin dealers. Also, like in the original, the lieutenant gets his fix in various ways. One way is through a young woman with whom he likes to score cocaine. In this version, her name is Frankie, played by Eva Mendes.
The other way Terence gets his fix is through gambling on local sports. He'll bet thousands
of dollars on the Saints or the University of New Orleans. This aspect doesn't have the same
thrust as it did in the original film, which centered itself around the World Series of the Dodgers versus the Mets. The thrill of following the lieutenant all the way to Game 7 created an undercurrent of excitement and tension that's lost in the remake.
In this remake though, the lieutenant doesn't have any children. In the original, he did have
children, including a little girl, which at times made his actions even more insane and reprehensible. Without the children, the film loses a bit of an edge. The edgy blasphemy in
the original film, which had all kinds of attacks against the church, is also taken out here.
What the new film lacks in shocking provocative material, it makes up for with bravura acting as we see a corrupt cop manipulate the system and use his badge for his own personal gain. What Cage does brilliantly is keep us guessing about whether or not this lieutenant is truly just a selfish person or whether he really is a guy who cares about people but just has one too many vices that's taken him over.
Cage somehow finds a way to ground the craziness into some kind of believability. With
supporting performances that truly buoy the story from Michael Shannon, Shawn Hatosy, and
Val Kilmer, and moviemaking from Herzog that reeks of fun, this film is wild ride.
Five Stars out of Five Rated R for drug use and language throughout, some violence and sexuality Running Time: 2 hrs. and 2 mins.