Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans [movie review]

* Released theatrically in November
Abel Ferrara, director of the 1992 version of Bad Lieutenant, was fairly blunt when asked of his opinion about director Werner Herzog remaking his film (along with producer Edward Pressman, who worked on the original): anybody associated with the production "should die in hell", Ferrara said. Herzog, quick to clarify that his movie is actually more of a "reimagining" than a traditional remake, pointedly addressed the comment with a baiting "who is Abel Ferrara?".
Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans is saddled with an unwieldy title, and star Nicolas Cage gives an appropriately unwieldy performance. He plays his cop character of Terence McDonagh with enough oddball traits and idiosyncrasies that would render most other actor's performances as cartoonish. Cage, on the other hand, has been perfecting this art of unrestrained weirdness his whole career (and I don't necessarily mean that as a compliment), so it's not overly jarring when we see him re-enter Face/Off or Wild At Heart territory here. At least with this role there's a sound basis for him acting like a loon.
The film is set in post-Katrina New Orleans and opens with McDonagh debating with his partner, Stevie Pruit (played by Val Kilmer), whether or not to save a prisoner being held in the police station's basement lock up, which is quickly flooding. McDonagh decides to play the hero, rescuing the man and sustaining a serious back injury in the process. In turn, this earns him a department medal of honour (never mind that he and Pruit were initially taking bets on how long the prisoner might survive), a promotion, and a wicked painkiller addiction that escalates to crack, heroin, and cocaine.
The rampant drug use seems to fuel most of McDonagh's erratic behavior, including falsifying and stealing evidence, making shady deals with criminals, heavy gambling, and intimidating senior citizen women (the scene involving the latter is shockingly disturbing, yet guiltily amusing). The lieutenant manages to get by on the job on the strength of his good cop instincts and fearless attitude.
The main plot, involving a quintuple homicide that seems to point in the direction of drug kingpin Big Fate (played solidly by rapper Xzibit), struggles to support the film's weight, with little help coming from separate secondary stories involving McDonagh's junkie hooker girlfriend (played by Eva Mendes in a wasted role), his father and stepmother, or his bookie. No, this film is pretty much all Nicolas Cage, with his slanted posture, drug-induced hallucinations involving reptiles and break-dancing ghosts, and a huge revolver ridiculously tucked inside his belt front. Even noted scenery chewer Val Kilmer plays it uncharacteristically subtle in his surprisingly limited role, seemingly aware that there's only so much crazy to go around in one film.
The Cage/Herzog endeavour is rarely dull, but not always cohesive, either.
Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

3 comments:

  1. "Who is Abel Ferrarra?" LMFAO!!

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  2. I would have given it an 8/10. It was goofy and little out there but this is the type of film made for for Cage's "unrestrained weirdness" and he pulls it off perfectly.

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  3. A LITTLE out there? There's an understatement.

    You were right about the scene with the old ladies, though. Classic!

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