Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Apparently the wordy title is a result of the how this movie was initially conceived: as a remake of the 1992 Harvey Keitel movie Bad Lieutenant. What Werner Herzog and Nic Cage have produced is not a remake, but rather something completely remarkable and often hilarious.

It takes place in the titular city shortly after, what else?, Hurricane Katrina. Lieutenant Terence McDonagh (Cage) leaps into neck high water to rescue an inmate. This results in life-long back pain. The movie is quick to establish in the first few minutes that good deeds are punished. McDonagh develops an addiction to vicodin that quickly leads to hard cocaine abuse.

The remainder of the movie purports to follow McDonagh and a cast of characters including Val Kilmer trying to solve the murder of an African family. This goes quickly off the rails as McDonagh is much more interested in shaking down club goers and the evidence room attendant for more drugs. He gets heavy into college football gambling debts. Eva Mendes plays his prostitute (girl)friend Frankie, which later leads to McDonagh running afoul of an Italian mobster. Eventually he gets into the drug trafficking business himself and McDonagh's motives are never quite clear.

Each of these plot lines collides in a perfect shit storm much like the Hurricane itself. However when that first scene establishes that good deeds lead to punishments, you start to realize that the opposite is also true for the "bad" Lieutenant. Despite his horrendous behavior McDonagh is the most likable and sympathetic drug addict since Raoul Duke. It helps that most of the stuff he does while high is hysterical.

Nic Cage is a weird dude. He is associated with so much routine garbage that it is hard to remember that he can act. This is his show and it is impressive. The decent into madness is cataloged by an increasingly nasty attitude, weird voice, and penchant for insane laughter. His character suffers from chronic back pain and so Cage lurches around. This is offset by the hilarity of how he wears his gun: right in front, hanging out of pants with only his belt to hold onto the barrel.

I've read some reviews that describe this as a deliberately bad movie- an ironic piece of pop cinema that lampoons detective movies. They are full of shit. Herzog isn't a hack. This movie wonders what it must be like for authority figures to live in those post-disaster conditions like New Orleans. Several shots spend minutes lingering on things like alligators and iguanas, which will surely produce "wtf" moments from the audience. Until you realize that in all the chaos of the storm and thereafter the reptiles did not give a shit.

Verdict: Epic Win [10/10]


autothrall said...

Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes, two of the culprits who contributed to the rape one of the better Marvel comics characters, in a good movie together?

This I must see.

Kiel said...

yeah I know crazy right?

I normally hate Eva Mendes

though Cage is usually the most entertaining part of terrible movies

autothrall said...

Just got around to watching this.

Was a lot of fun, especially the lizards and the scene with the old women at the assisted living home.

The 2nd scene :)