Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call

After Hurricane Katrina, police sergeant Terence McDonagh (Nicholas Cage) rescues a prisoner, hurts his back in the process and earns a promotion to lieutenant. But with his pain comes an addiction to cocaine and painkillers while he is working the case of a family murdered over drugs. His drug-using prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes), his alcoholic father’s dog, run-ins with two old women and a well-connected john, gambling losses, a nervous young witness, and thefts of police property put Terence’s job and life in danger. He wants a big score to get out from under mounting debts, so he joins forces with drug dealers.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Bad Lieutenant is just that. Bad.

This is one of those cases where a director, Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), completely dropped the ball with a solid script.

You can tell a strong story was on the page. There is a wonderful scene where McDonagh takes his girlfriend to his childhood home. He shows her his secret hiding place, and tells her about a silver spoon, his pirate treasure, that he found as a boy and hid but could never again find. It’s wonderful symbolism of having a goal, like being a police officer, and losing it and the spoon conjures imagery of  heroine.

Cage’s character was nicely developed through about 70 percent of the film. He seems vulnerable, a great detective and son of a successful cop who slips into a life of drug abuse after injuring his back. But Herzog took the performance to a cartoonish level, and slapped together sequences where the protagonist has hallucinations of lizards and break-dancing dead people, but they come off as silly and ineffective and demean the flow of the narrative.

This was a swing and a miss at film noir by Herzog.

Rating: 4 out of 10

I’ll admit that I was excited for this film.  Why would I be when I didn’t even like the Harvey Keitel original?  Well, one reason: Werner Herzog.  He’s one of the greatest directors in the world that most people have never heard of.  If you’re not familiar with his work, go see “Stroszek, Wrath of of God,” and “Grizzly Man” immediately.

So, what did I think of the new one?  Well, let’s start with the good. The locales of New Orleans are used to great effect.  It picks up right after Hurricane Katrina and you feel the palpable sense of decay from death and despair.  Also, Nicholas Cage is excellent.  He does exactly what he’s required to do and going over the top is what he does best.  Okay, that’s where the positive ends and the negative begins.  This film is a complete mess of storytelling without any originality or believability.  Who in their right mind would believe that a cop who behaved this way wouldn’t be in jail?  He goes through the process of (in no particular order) pulling people over so he can search them for drugs to take for his own habit, taking sex as payment for not arresting a woman while her boyfriend watches (when the boyfriend tries to run away, Cage’s character fires a shot in the air and says, “stay here and watch me fuck your girlfriend.”), he participates in side deals for cocaine with drug dealers and even watches them commit murder others while he laughs, snorts more drugs than Scarface.  In the film, he’s not under investigation.  In fact, he’s promoted not once, but twice!!  There’s also a side romance with a coke whore played by Mendes that is a complete waste of time.  Wouldn’t it have been more interesting for him to have a normal family and lead an unknown double life that he tries to hide from them?  Well, the writers only cared for shock value and that’s what they get, a few shocks and no point whatsoever.

One response to “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call

  1. I watched “Aguirre: Wrath of God” on Netflix at my computer a couple months ago and loved every minute of it. What an amazing film. Kinski fuckin’ ROCKS. The first Herzog film I ever saw was Rescue Dawn, and I was totally hooked, even though RD is a largely standard Hollywood narrative compared to his previous films. Haven’t seen Grizzly Man yet, but I REALLY want to, and was looking forward to BL: POCNO, since I actually liked the Keitel turn as BL.

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