German wild-man Werner Herzog blissfully resurrects old-school Nicolas Cage in this hilarious, noir-infested tale about a drug-addled homicide detective whose disintegration (both moral and physical) coincides with that of his hurricane-ravaged hometown.
Only loosely related to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 original, Herzog’s clunkily titled ode to B-level crime movies follows the exploits of Terence McDonagh (Cage) as he cruises post-Katrina New Orleans while popping prescription pills to alleviate his aching back. In fact, McDonagh’s barely functioning professional life is consumed by a drug habit rapidly run amok — he pilfers illegal substances from the police station’s evidence room and harangues club kids for blow (and blow jobs).
But, as is the case in many a Herzog fictional effort, the narrative takes a backseat to the director’s unique, often surreal touches (including a sequence involving iguanas and a nice use of on-location New Orleans) and his obvious nurturing of Cage’s gonzo portrayal of a man on the edge of madness (not since Wild at Heart has Cage been as deliriously over the top).
Bad Lieutenant is a skuzzy, go-for-broke gem in a sea of play-it-safe mediocrity. Grade: A-
Opens Feb. 5 at the Esquire Theatre.