Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans
It’s been a long time since a movie has left me as speechless as after I watched Werner Herzog’s latest mess of a film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. Leaving the theatre, I really, honestly, didn’t have a thing to say about it. I’m not sure that’s changed.
Nic Cage plays a mildly crooked cop who goes from bad to worse when his back is permanently injured while doing a good a deed. The injury leads to an addiction to pain killers, which leads to coke, accidentally snorting heroin, falling deeper into a co-dependant relationship with his hooker girlfriend and fellow drug user Frankie (Eva Mendes), and engaging in more and more illegal acts. These include robbing Frankie’s clients, selling police information to drug dealers, robbing and raping young adults when he believes they have drugs he can take from them in the name of the law. And he frequently hallucinates aggressive iguanas.
Herzog’s furiously paced film is fantastically uneven and frenetic. Which actually is perfectly paired with one crazy ass performance by Cage. This is the good crazy Cage like in Wild at Heart, not ridiculous Cage like Knowing, Ghost Rider, The Wicker Man, Next, Bangkok Dangerous, etc., etc. Truly, his performance here is fantastic. Halfway through the film his rampant drug usage mostly paralyzes half his body and forces him to talk like James Stewart. Here, this is somewhat distracting, but for the most part, it’s a great performance. There are solid performances by most of his co-stars as well, including Mendes, Val Kilmer, and a fantastic Jennifer Coolidge.
If there was a point that Mr. Herzog intended for me to take away from his film, it has mostly eluded my grasp. The film is wildly unpredictable, which is refreshing in a genre that is becoming overly familiar. The ending is so unbelievable, it would be laughable if it had been handled in any other way. Basically, Bad Lieutenant is just a hell of a ride. Herzog keeps that distinct sense of detachment that is evident in his documentaries. This detachment is passed on to the viewer which allows us to keep pesky emotions at bay. In any other film, that would be seen as a handicap, but here, it works like synergy, taking the sum of all the films parts and supercharging them to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.