"Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" DVD, Blu-ray Review

4/07/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

"Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"

Directed by Werner Herzog, Written by William Finkelstein, 121 Minutes, rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

It's possible you've heard of the 1992 film "Bad Lieutenant" starring Harvey Keitel as a crooked cop who is struggling with his faith and attempts to redeem himself. It's pretty polarizing. Some people tend to think it's an absolute indie masterwork of faith and redemption, while others (myself included) think of it more as a complete trainwreck that resulted in one of the craziest and funniest performances an actor has ever given. Werner Herzog claims his film "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" is not meant to be a sequel or remake, but you can definitely see the vague little similarities between the two films--the crooked lead, the path to redemption, the off-the-wall performances--but the most crucial thing that sets these two apart, though, is that Herzog lives to confound and entertain his audience, while the original film's director Abel Ferrara only did so incidentally.

Nicolas Cage portrays the eponymous lieutenant, Terrence McDonagh, a New Orleans cop gone bad who receives the honor of lieutenant after rescuing a Hurrican Katrina victim, badly injuring his back in the process. Now he's on a plethora of mixed medications, both legal and otherwise, to deal with the pain, and his drug-addled mind allows us to see this typical cop tale from a totally different and wild point of view.

Generally, the film is just about Terrence's life on and off the force, but the case that pops up every so often in the film involves the murder of some immigrants, as well as investigation into numerous drug cartels in the city. One of the really cool things about the film is that we're never quite sure whether Terrence is actually attempting to solve the case or if he's just using the case as a means to make further drug and criminal connections.

We also meet Frankie (Eva Mendes), Terrence's crazed prostitute girlfriend who makes trouble with Terrence's mother Genevieve (Jennifer Coolidge) and is just an all-around mess. There's also Steve Pruit (Val Kilmer), Terrence's partner, and Ned (Brad Dourif), a bookie who has to deal with Terrence's dangerous gambling problems (a pretty major element of Ferrara's film as well).

Even if all of that sounds remotely traditional for a crime film, rest assured, it isn't. Perhaps under different direction it might have been, but Herzog brings his dark, passionate insanity to the production in pretty much every moment, and combining his artistic sensibilities with the acting style of Nicolas Cage makes for a truly inspired and almost undefinable mix of black comedy, action, drama and every other element of crime fiction you can imagine. It's a regular cocktail of cliche and guerrilla filmmaking.

It's certainly a big step back into the ring for Cage, whose career has been dwindling the past few years. It's a return to the form of "Wild at Heart," "Vampire's Kiss" and "Raising Arizona." That absurd Cage who isn't afraid of doing anything, who will say and do things that are downright mad and make the film all the more entertaining because of it. You've got to give Herzog credit for seeing in Cage the same thing he must have seen in regular collaborator Klaus Kinski all those years ago. Herzog has always thrived in the bedlam.

But as always it is not a madness without purpose. It's an uproariously entertaining film, often so funny and bizarre that you don't even know what you're laughing at anymore, but it's very much a tale of redemption in the same vein as Ferrara's film and it definitely succeeds in that respect as well. But where many filmmakers will let the redemption speak for itself and end there, Herzog allows us to wonder if it's even possible for Terrence to truly be a good man.

So, anyone heading into "Bad Lieutenant" expecting anything close to traditional may be a bit startled with what they find. It takes a lot to actually transcend the chaos of Ferrara's original film, but Herzog, a veteran of chaos Ferrara cannot even begin to imagine matching, does it with the ease one expects from a master filmmaker. A return to form for Cage, a slap in the face to form and expectation, "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" is not one to miss.

Grade: B+

View the trailer for "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" below.  What are your thoughts?

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