Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lieutenant’s Bad Habits Good for Caged Prisoner

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

In my brief time on this earth, I have seen 43 films starring, featuring, or directed by Nicolas Cage. I am not bragging, in fact, I am ashamed to admit this. The majority of those 43 films have been infuriatingly bad, yet I always find myself going back for one more round of Cage. If this was a marriage, it would surely be an abusive one. After 43 films, and thanks in part to The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, I think I have finally figured him out.

Nicolas Cage, similar to Hollywood stars such as Halle Berry, needs an outstanding director to work with, one who knows how to navigate his rocky terrain in order to find gold. Left in the hands of anyone else, the results can be disastrous beyond belief. When I look back at all of Nicolas Cage’s finest performances, the thing which standouts most about those films is who was behind the lens. If you can overlook Michael Bay’s inclusion on the list, ten of Cage’s top eleven works were directed by the likes of: John Dahl, The Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Mike Figgis, Norman Jewison, Martin Scorsese, Spike Jonze, Ridley Scott, John Woo and Werner Herzog.

Although Werner Herzog has been working for years, I was first introduced to his films through Grizzly Man. I was not too fond of the film, but I absolutely loved Herzog’s film Encounters at the End of the World which he made a few years later. In many ways, the sly, and at times absurd, wit that Herzog displays in Encounters is good preparation for the craziness that he throws at the audience in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Loosely based on the 1992 film, Bad Lieutenant, directed by Abel Ferrara and staring Harvey Keitel, Port of Call New Orleans looks at the year in the life of corrupt detective, Terrence McDounaugh (Nicolas Cage). Pill-popping Terrence is trying to solve a homicide case, but keeps getting distracted by his many vices. When he is not hanging out with his prostitute girlfriend, Frank (Eva Mendes), he spends his days stealing drugs from club goers and avoiding his bookie persistent whom he owes a lot of money. As Terrence spirals out of control, the line between good and evil become increasingly blurred. Soon Terrence finds himself partnering up with drug kingpin Baby Fate (Xzibit), who happens to be the lead suspect in the murder case McDounaugh is investigating.

Although similar in theme to the original Bad Lieutenant, Werner Herzog’s version is different in practically every way. I found that Herzog’s version was much lighter in tone, almost boarding on farce in several occasions. The off-kilter humour, coupled with Nicolas Cage’s wildly creative performance, makes for an oddly entertaining film. Herzog really does a great job of not only bring you into Terrence’s drug hazed world, but making it all seem natural.

While not quite as strong as Bad Lieutenant, Port of Call has its own unique charm that allows it to co-exist nicely with the 1992 film. The film tends to lag in a few parts, but really, it is not that noticeable. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is one wild ride that was far more entertaining than it really should be.

2 comments:

  1. everything started going downhill with that silly Scorsese ambulance movie...

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  2. @Thesharkguys - I am inclined to agree with you. While Bringing out the Dead got great reviews it just did not connect with me. I think Cage's lowest points so far are Snake Eyes and The Wicker Man. Bangkok Dangerous and Ghost Rider comes close as well.

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