15 February 2010

Werner Herzog's BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS - A Review

by guest columnist Michael Wendt.  Follow him on Twitter.






BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, Werner Herzog's remake/re-imaging of the 1992 original, is one very bizarre film, and because it seems to revel in its bizarreness, it makes for quite an entertaining ride.

Nicolas Cage plays the titular role of Terence McDonough, whom in the aftermath of Katrina jumps down a flight of stairs to help a prisoner who is stuck in a cell that is fast flooding with water. The jump injures his back, and now he is addicted to Vicodin, cocaine, the occasional heroin, and - oh yeah - a gambling problem. Yet somehow he is given the OK to go back into duty.



Not long after rejoining the force, he is investigating the brutal murders of a family of five, and he is using whatever means necessary to not only solve the case but also to get his hands on drugs.  Now yes, I am leaving out some of the plot because to tell much more would give away some of the fun of the film. 



It's as if Herzog took elements of the script and elements of the original film, mashed them together and made the type of film he wanted to make.  It never really follows a clear path structurally and at times I was wondering if this was a hard edged crime drama or a black comedy. Because of these different tones, I'm guessing it may not go over well with all audiences (perhaps why it was only in very limited release). But for those who like their films slightly off kilter, they will relish in it.

Yes, there are several different characters that come and go in this film, most notably McDonough's prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendez), a friend on the force who "loses" evidence slips to various drugs (Michael Shannon), and a detective whom he associates with (Val Kilmer). All give good performances but this is clearly Cage's show.  At times way over the top and at other times understated, he finds a perfect balance. I really feel that he was overlooked in the Best Actor category for this years' Oscars. Many things have been said and written about Cage's choices in roles - the fact that he often stars in big budget effects films and phones them in - but here he shows that when teamed up with the right director and script, he's one of the best in the biz. 




I hope this film finds an audience once it's available on DVD because it has cult or midnight movie status written all over it. (***1/2 out of ****)



Michael Wendt is a Cleveland-based Actor, Producer, and Director.  His recent works include the documentary The End of the World As We Knew It which has played at several Film Festivals, as well as acting in the romantic omedy The Bride & The Grooms which had a limited release around the country last year. When not working on film projects, you can probably find him frequenting the movie theater or hitting a karaoke bar!



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