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One thing you can always count on when you go into a Werner Herzog
movie is that you can always expect to find a story surrounding a very
bizarre individual. With Bad Lieutenant, I saw both Herzog and Nicholas
Cage in a new light, or rather a new darkness. Labeled as a black
comedy, there should be more emphasis on 'black' than on 'comedy'. The
film bears a strong resemblance to the thematically surreal and
contrived nature of a Coen Brothers film, but the difference is that
this one is more character driven than plot driven. More specifically,
this is a film that lives on one performance. Nicholas Cage for the
first time in a while has done something worthy of recognition,
possibly even award worthy.
He plays New Orleans cop Terence McDonagh, recently promoted to Lieutenant. The film follows his latest homicide investigation. Due to a back problem and a drug addiction he is grumpy and unstable. He is sort of an anti- American hero, and the film concludes on a very bizarre note but clever anti- conventional/Hollywood manner.
Though not Herzog's best, it is certainly one worth watching. With each film I see from him, past or present he continues to intrigue me, but I think in this case, it might be Nicholas Cage who deserves the most credit.
I just watched this at London Film Festival & went in expecting to hate it as I loved the original. But I have to say, the film is excellent, certainly Cage's best film & best performance since Leaving Las Vegas. Herzog has done a brilliant job & the film stands on it's own, apart from the Ferrara film. I won't spoil bits by mentioning them, but the film has several stand-out memorable scenes worth the price of admission alone. Herzog has always said that training for making films is 'life' not a stuffy film studies class etc. If you're familiar with his work or sensibilities, you'll get even more insight into how cool this guy is after watching this film. I look fwd to watching it again when it releases and getting the DVD!!
This is one of the best films of the year, but judging by the comments
here, it's also one of the most under-appreciated and misunderstood.
I loved it. To the horde of naysayers, I simply want to shout from the rooftops, "This is a film dammit, not an exercise in some mysterious media, and it's a damn good one." There. That feels better.
Nicolas Cage finds his inner demons and let's them out to play in his role as the drug addicted cop. He's more than believable as a coke snorting, crack rock smoking fiend who thinks nothing of squeezing people, good guys and bad alike. And by the way, the bizarre mannerisms...yup, that's what drugs will do for you. To my mind, he nailed it! Take one small mannerism, the way he snorts a small pinch of coke from the back of his hand, a flurry of movement, and voilà, an observer would never know. It's inventive Cage and it's priceless. And you won't find many in the real drug world as good at it.
The supporting cast is excellent, although I must admit I did forget Val Kilmer was even it at times.
The texture, the interwoven story lines, the camera work. All superb. It's a Tarrantino film with a Herzog touch. Ask yourself, how many interrogation rooms have you seen on television and in movies? Any of them have windows with traffic outside? Probably not. Good touch and the film has dozens of them.
As for the iguanas and dancing mobster. These are apparitions folks. You know, born of the effects of all those drugs on the brain. They are not symbolic. They are not misguided touches of the bizarre (well, maybe they are a bit). They are the demons of a drug soaked mind and of course they are all of of proportion. That's what demons do! Very entertaining. You want more? Read a book.
Seen at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept 17, 2009.
First off it is important to note that the Bad Lieutenant name was imposed by producer Edward Pressman in the hopes of building a future franchise. As Herzog said, a better franchise would be based on his title Port of Call New Orleans. The combined title is a compromise which Werner Herzog was willing to agree to.
Herzog was fun as always at the introductory remarks and the Q&A with TIFF programmer Colin Geddes. Telling anecdotes such as Cage asking him on the 2nd day of shooting what is his motivation and Herzog telling him not to worry about that, just go with "Evil is bliss" and sometimes "let the pig out!" (from the Bavarian colloquialism "Die Sau rauslassen!" / "Las die Sau raus!").
I'll confess that I had my doubts about this one simply based on the BLt title alone, imagining that this was going to be some sort of embarrassing sequel that has been imposed on Herzog for some bizarre contractual obligation reason. Have no fear about that! This is a Herzog movie and a Nicolas Cage on-a-rampage movie with all that those both imply. Even if certain clichés of the genre are adhered to (the prostitute girlfriend, the father who is an ex-cop now "drinking himself to death", etc.) these end up having totally different plot resolutions than you'd expect. Cage's second scene confronting the matron lady and her hairdresser alone is worth the price of admission. I know they don't give Oscars for roles like this (actually, maybe for Denzel they did) but this is the best Nicholas Cage I've seen in years.
Comment at the Q&A "I have seen 20 movies at this festival, and this is the most entertaining of all of them!" I couldn't agree more (and BLt:PoCNO was my 22nd). BLt:PoCNO rocks and Herzog rules! Seen at the Elgin Theatre/VISA Screening Room, the 2nd screening of 3 at TIFF 2009.
This movie is filled with humor and turns, it's jazzy and entertaining but not that similar to Abel Ferrara's 1992 story, in spite of the title. It features a wonderful and very much involved performance from Nicholas Cage, a lot of very black humor and gets to develop a strong pessimism. The story is appropriately set in New Orleans (during the Hurricane Katrina's aftermath) and mainly shows what occurs to good people when bad people prosper. Nicholas Cage aside, Val Kilmer doesn't probably manages to do much, but Mendes and Dourif deliver convincing performances. Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" was a dirty depiction of a strongly damaged detective (played by Harvey Keitel), where, leaving from the illusions of a drug-induced cop, ended up involving a lot of Catholic guilt. Here there's more action and humor than that stuff, not that the movie is shallow but probably it's just a bit more unpretentious.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Friday marks the limited release of one of the best films I caught at
TIFF this year, Werner Herzog's gloriously unhinged Bad Lieutenant:
Port of Call New Orleans starring the gloriously unhinged Nic Cage.
Neither a remake nor an homage nor a sequel to Abel Ferrara's 1992 cult
classic Bad Lieutenant, Herzog's film is certainly historically
conceptually weird, sharing as a link to Ferrara's film only the idea
of a drug-addicted, corrupt cop as a central character. Herzog
reportedly tried to have the "Bad Lieutenant" dropped from his film's
title, and Ferrara reportedly wished that Herzog would die in an
Cage plays good-cop-turned-bad Terence McDonagh, who descends into corruption and drug addiction after injuring his back during a heroic rescue in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When not spending time with his call-girl girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes), he investigates the death of a family of African immigrants and becomes involved with local drug kingpin Big Fate (Xzibit).
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is the story of a director finding his actor, and vice-versa. Herzog's career (varied though it's been) is for many defined by the five films (Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Woyzeck, Fitzcarraldo and Cobra Verde) made in the '70's and '80's with the legendarily volatile actor Klaus Kinski, and in Cage Herzog has finally found an actor that can match Kinski's vibrating, bizarre intensity. What other pairing of actor and director could in 2009 make a film in which the lead interrupts a tense procedural cop stake-out scene to remark on a pair of non-existent iguanas looking at him from on a coffee-table? Cage is better in this film than he has been in anything in years, maybe a decade or more, and his frazzled, unravelling, wide-eyed glee is used by Herzog in a way that renders it human and real, where it would be scenery-chewing in the hands of almost any other filmmaker. The film is a gloriously weird explosion of creativity bound within the still-somehow-convincing shell of a cop drama. While it lacks the rote good-guy-bad-guy tension and shoot-out thrills of your classic thriller, it more than makes up for that loss with unhinged, weird, maniac creative freedom. I particularly liked the moment when we learn after-the-fact that we've been watching a scene from the point of view of a crocodile, for some reason. 8.5/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Viewers of the film who think it and/or Cage's acting are simply 'bad'
or 'cheesy' are missing the point of what Herzog is doing. Then again,
viewers who think it's a wild and crazy artistic take on the crime/noir
genre (i.e. the 'it's different/wacky/quirky, therefore it's good'
crowd) are also probably missing the point - especially if they think
the lizards and dancing soul are 'symbolic' or 'represent' things.
(Warning - spoilers ahead...) What Herzog seems to be doing is serving up a parody of mainstream cinematic conventions, especially those which verge towards melodrama in their earnest attempts to be 'meaningful', 'emotional', etc. From the opening scene establishing the character as a 'wounded hero' and giving a motivation for his drug addiction with which we can sympathize (Keitel's character in the original had none, as far as I can remember), to the ending where his problems all get resolved in a single scene (!), followed by a flash forward to when his girlfriend is pregnant and his family is back on track, the film serves up one melodramatic movie cliché after another (and skewers them, not through the familiar Mel Brooks/'Scary Movie'-style of parody-through-references, but purely through the ridiculousness of it all and the over-the-top performance from Cage).
The scenes that aren't clichés (i.e. the soul dancing, the alligator/iguanas, the last shot of the fish tank) work as disruptions from the plot which highlight how ridiculous it is, like the way Bunuel would use a narrative digression to 'take the mickey' out of a melodramatic plot. Nonsensical lines like "Do fish have dreams?" or "I'll kill the three of you (dramatic pause) till the break of dawn", delivered by Cage as if they were poetic, clever or menacing, make fun of both the typical cool 'one-liners' found in action and crime movies and the pseudo-poetic, supposedly 'deep and meaningful' lines found in many 'indie' movies.
Perhaps the most convincing signs that the film isn't meant to be serious, but is ridiculous on purpose, are the over-the-top acting of the abusive john that Cage kicks out of his girlfriend's hotel room (repeating 'whoa' and pausing to say something like 'oh yeah' to the kid waiting in the hall outside!), which proves it's not just Cage who was told to overact, and the last shot - held for quite a long time on two characters sitting under a fish tank (coming after the aforementioned "Do fish have dreams?" line which makes it seem like it has some sort of 'deep' or symbolic meaning), with Cage cracking up just when we're growing impatient for something to happen, followed by a sudden cut to black. Even the casting of Val Kilmer in the role of an unimportant character who had next to nothing to do and could have been played by anyone seems to have parodic intentions (what has Kilmer done recently?).
As some reviewers have pointed out, the actual plot, once you remove the stylized direction and acting, is the sort of thing you'd expect to find in a low quality, straight-to-DVD mystery/thriller. Especially when you consider that many of Herzog's earlier films, while definitely being bizarre or 'quirky', weren't cheesy or campy but had definite depth of humanity to them, it really seems like here he's making fun of the generic, conventional material he was given, rather than taking it seriously.
In a way, it reminded me of "The Room", but done deliberately with a larger budget, more technical polish and with an established star and director who have proved their abilities in the past - all of which make it more likely for viewers to take what they're seeing seriously, instead of seeing through the absurdity of it all. Or perhaps a better comparison would be "Adaptation" (also starring Cage!) which parodies mainstream film-making conventions in a similar way in its final half hour (and there's even an alligator!)
Port of Call is an excellent movie that knows what it is and entertains throughout. If you watch the movie thinking of it as a serious drama you're going to be disappointed. I laughed along with the audience many times during this film and found it to be entertaining the entire time. Although it deals with graphic subject matter that should be depressing it isn't, you could easily buy a bucket of popcorn to go with it. Although the movie was a bit ridiculous I was surprised to actually feel concern for some of the characters at times. The plot was entertaining and keeps your interest. There were a few great lines and Nick Cage gives a great performance, he's fun to watch in this movie. I thought a darkened New Orleans worked great for the setting as well. If you like black comedies and crime dramas go see Port of Call and prepare to be entertained.
In 1992, director Abel Ferrara made the controversial film Bad
Lieutenant, and I have always thought that that movie was a
protest/parody of the anti-heroes who were infesting the popular
culture...all those alcoholic, divorced and depressed policemen we saw
(and keep seeing) as main characters in uncountable thrillers or action
films.It is like if Bad Lieutenant wanted to say: "Do you want an
anti-hero? THIS is an anti-hero".18 years later, we have a new version
of that film, called Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, and
even though it is not a great movie, it ended up being a pretty
interesting experience.Nevertheless, I would not consider it as a
The best thing I can say about Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans is that it is a unique film.I still do not know whether it is very good or very bad, but at least this is not one of those bland movies lacking of vision we commonly see on contemporary cinema.This film has plenty vision (and madness), and that disproportionate passion is one of the main things which make it interesting.
Nicolas Cage entertained me with his extreme and over the top performance, but at the same time, that plays against this movie.He abuses from the same style we have seen him doing in other films, and it became so common that it does not provoke the necessary impact in his performance.The rest of the actors bring solid developments.Eva Mendes is simultaneously sober and precise on her character; Jennifer Coolidge shows her talent, which is unfortunately wasted on many occasions; Alvin Joiner (more famous as "Xzibit") surprised me with the maturity he shows in his character; and finally, the brilliant Val Kilmer and Brad Dourif also bring competent performances.
If I had read the title "Director Werner Herzog prepares a remake of Bad Lieutenant" on Mad Magazine, I would have thought it was an appropriate satire of the ridiculous fever for making new versions of classic (or semi-classic) movies.And I guess Herzog and screenwriter William M. Finkelstein also found that idea funny, because behind the drama and sordid situations from Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, there are constant winks and a soft sarcasm as indications we do not have to take this movie very seriously.And it is precisely that humor one of the main things which rescue it from being a mediocre thriller.So, this movie is not great, but I think it is worth exposing to its bizarre elements and humor.In summary, I think Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans is one of the few "so bad it is good" movies which were done with that purpose, and they succeeded on that.Whoever understands that will definitely appreciate this strange movie.
Some reviews here are enthusiastically negative while others (like
humble me) "get it" and love Herzog's film. Cage's performance is
brilliant and every other actor seems to step up their game while
interacting with him. He never steals scenes even though his character
is the focus; instead, every other character comes alive through
I'm from Louisiana and have lived over six years (maybe 7, it's hard to remember in the city that time forgot) in New Orleans before and after the storm. Herzog's New Orleans is literally the best representation of the city I've ever seen on film. It's authenticity is underscored by the director's choice to not have actors fake an affected New Orleans accent. Instead, the character's have speech rhythms that reflect the feel of sound of the people who live in the city; a diverse bunch as reflected in the film. There is also the bonus that the character's act like people who live in New Orleans. Lastly, it must be noted that the city is a character in and of itself thanks to Herzog, and he captures the spirit and vibe of a the very strange environment. If the hallucinations seemed out of place, you've never lived in New Orleans.
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