Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call - New Orleans

Director    Werner Herzog
Starring    Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Xzibit, Jennifer Coolidge, Tom Bower
Release    20 NOV (US) 21 MAY (UK)    Certificate 18
4 stars


19th May 2010

Ah, Nicolas Cage. Regulars to this site will know we're all pretty devoted to the mighty NC. If you're expecting an impartial review you better look elsewhere. It's been a rocky road for Nic of late, even we can see that through the smoke of adoration, but we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief at the news that, along with turning the Christmas lights on in Bath (okay, and a little movie called Kick-Ass), Bad Lieutenant is Cage's best work in an age.

Originally made in 1992 starring Harvey Keitel, Werner Herzog contemporises the Bad Lieutenant tale by setting it in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But that hardly matters. What matters is that this movie gives Nicolas Cage license to be a totally mad bastard. And he doesn't disappoint.

Cage is Terence McDonagh, a good cop turned very bad lieutenant after being promoted for a good deed on the job which leaves him with severe lumbar pain. His back prompts a severe drug habit, though it's merely a catalyst for the inevitable; McDonagh lives life vicariously on the edge. Apparently lacking any moral compass, he sinks further into the mire of New Orleans, but he is not without purpose. His mission is to solve a multiple murder case, which inevitably brings him into contact with some of the city's prize scumbags, so why not do a little business with them along the way?

[gallery]Meanwhile, Cage retains a surprisingly touching relationship with tart-with-a-heart Eva Mendes, who sets expectations unrealistically high for anyone looking to hire a prostitute in New Orleans. And inconsequential cop partner Val Kilmer (whose head gets meatier by the day) must be kept under control too.

Even the staunchest Nic Cage skeptics must admit his performance is nothing if not committed. He's like a pissed-up tramp on the back of the bus - you don't want to catch his eye in case he either hugs or thumps you, yet you feel compelled to stare. There's almost a touch of Vincent Price in Cage's hammy, camp performance. With his crooked back and demonic laugh he's like a pantomime villain.

In between the constant search for the next hit, busting crims and gambling, McDonagh finds time to hassle a couple of old ladies in one gloriously deranged scene. Herzog effectively laughs in the face of the conventions of cop thrillers - Cage isn't a maverick Jack Bauer figure who does some shitty stuff but is essentially trying to do the right thing: McDonagh is positively depraved.

Apart from Cage, the thing that really sets this film apart from other noir-tinged thrillers is its inspired surreal moments, mostly involving reptiles. It jars with the tone of the rest of the film, making you sit up and take a swift look around to make sure everybody else is also seeing the singing iguana on the screen.

The film also has a cheeky sense of humour which becomes more apparent as the film progresses and McDonagh increasingly loses his grip. In some ways the tone of the film gets lighter as it goes on because we are no longer witnessing the disintegration of a man, but rather a man revelling in his own particular brand of crazy. Bad Lieutenant is in no way safe or predictable, it's deliciously unhinged.

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