Review: A Weird Sort of Good in Bad Lieutenant

Title: Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans
Studio:  First Look Pictures
Director: Werner Herzog
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk, Xzibit
I give Nicolas Cage a lot of crap.

It’s not that I dislike him as an actor, it’s just that, more often than not, he can be found spearheading some of the worst projects in recent memory: Ghost Rider, Next, Bangkok Dangerous, Knowing, the National Treasure series…he just makes terrible role decisions.

Of course, given his high-profile financial difficulties, many of these projects may have little to do with choice and more to do with paying off the exorbitant amount of debt he owes the IRS. Apparently Cage isn’t very good with a budget – who would have guessed that blowing your millions on castles, mansions, and dinosaur fossils would bite you in the ass?

Regardless the reasons for his film choices, Cage hasn’t exactly been the dependable actor that he once was. Until now.

Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans is one of the best Cage movies you’ve never heard of. The Werner Herzog re-imagining of 1992’s Bad Lieutenant, has Cage portraying Terence McDonagh: a drug, sex, and gambling-addicted police officer trying to solve a case in a post-Katrina New Orleans. Sound like a mouthful? That’s because it is. It’s also just as crazy as it sounds and Cage hasn’t been more fun to watch in years.

Overall, the movie is good, but make no mistake, none of that really matters. This is a film all about Cage and his portrayal of a madman. Shambling and twitching in and out of every scene due to drugs and back pain, Cage fills the screen with the presence only a lunatic can offer. From screaming at and ultimately circumventing a druggist taking an inopportune personal call, to shaking down a random club girl for drugs and sex, Cage’s “McDonagh” is not so much a morally grey policeman as he is a criminal with a badge trying to solve a case. Think Training Day, but twitchier.

The supporting cast for this madness is like a B-list carnival, bringing Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Xzibit, Fairuza Balk, and Jennifer Coolidge along for the ride. The astounding thing is, everything works. This miscreant band of actors are each able to pull off great performances. They fill out the movie where it needs padding, and get out of the way when Cage wobbles into the scene in all his nasally, wild-eyed glory.

All these accolades aren’t to say that Bad Lieutenant was an amazing film, or even featured a perfect performance by Cage, but it sure as hell is an entertaining, over-the-top, weird and wonderful two hours. A word of warning though: the movie is intentionally campy and bizarrely shot, alternating between serious, well-acted moments, to ludicrous sequences reminiscent of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The absurdity and camp makes for darkly hilarious moments, but rest assured, they are absurd. Herzog is a master director who knows what he’s doing, but the odd humour may not work for some audiences and it’s important to know what sort of maelstrom you’re walking into.

Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans is available to rent now. See it if only to rinse out the bitter aftertaste of Knowing. Blech.

Dracula is “blood-curdling”, “a must see”

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