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Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

First Look Pictures, 2009, Rated R

By Jason Gargano · May 12th, 2010 · Couch Potato
I’ve been complaining for years about Nicolas Cage’s slide from subversive, unpredictable actor (see Valley Girl or Vampire’s Kiss, among other ’80s gems) to the checkcashing Hollywood joke he appears to be today. An entire generation of moviegoers has essentially come of age thinking of Cage as the guy in big-budget mediocrities like The Rock and National Treasure movies or, worse, travesties like Ghost Rider and Gone in Sixty Seconds. (To be fair, his “dual” performance in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation might just be his crowning achievement.)

Thank the movie gods, then, for German wild-man Werner Herzog, who blissfully resurrects old-school 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 very 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).

His never-ending quest for drugs is periodically interrupted by visits to his girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes), a high-class hooker with an equally acute drug problem, his bookie (an understated Brad Dourif) and a ruthless drug dealer (Xzbit) who’s the leading suspect in the murder investigation that serves as the film’s narrative centerpiece.

But, as is the case in many of Herzog’s fictional films, the plot takes a backseat to the director’s unique, often surreal touches (including a sequence involving iguanas and a nice use of gritty, 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 he been as deliriously over the top).

The DVD and Blu-ray versions both contain mildly interesting extras, but the best special feature of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is the sight of Cage back in go-for-broke mode. Grade: A-



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