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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 film was not at all what I expected from Herzog - I haven't
laughed so much in a long time during a movie. What we've got here is
an over the top, crazy ride with the best Nic Cage in years. Funny
little anecdote on the side (as told by the director, Werner Herzog):
when Cage asked for advice on how to best approach his role, Herzog
told him to go with 'evil is bliss'. Cage obviously obliged - and the
result is hilarious.
This film got a lot of negativity because apparently, people expected a serious, dark drama (knowing the original, I did, too). Well, Herzog had other plans: This is a wickedly funny black comedy that borders on satire. Fantastic acting by all involved, inventive camera and just one hell of a ride. If you like films in the vein of, say, 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' or 'The Big Lebowski' you'll have a blast watching this. Herzog's most entertaining film to date and Cage's best performance in ages. 9 stars out of 10.
Favorite Films: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054200841/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
*** 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.
One of Nicolas Cage's best performances. Extremely impressive. Didn't know this movie existed until it showed up on Encore and was it ever worth watching. Herzog and Cage give us a character that I both identified with and hated. The script is brilliant and has no correlation with the earlier movie which starred Harvey Keitel. It is an original which stands on its own. The plot is complex. Cage's character, Sargant Terence McDonagh, is established immediately as capable of heroic acts and is promoted to lieutenant. We learn that McDonagh is not all good guy in stages. First we learn about the drug addictions and later about the gambling addiction. This is one of those movies which will be recognized for its true brilliance about 30 years from now, like Scarface is now.
Many will look at this and will think that it is an action thriller
about a cop trying to solve the murders of 5 people in New Orleans and
that is a basic idea of what the film is about. 'Trying' is right word
to use; Nicolas Cage's characters is deeply flawed and is taking drugs
to ease his back pain, which he got for saving a prisoner in a flooded
prison. He has no interest in bringing the people responsible to
It is difficult to describe what happens in the film because it is so different from other films that I have seen. If you have seen Werner Herzog's other films then you will like this maybe not as much as some of his other films but there is a lot to like. Nicolas Cage gives a fantastic performance and is clearly back on form after the likes of Next, National Treasure and The Wicker Man. The rest of the cast also do a good job but the focus is on Cage. The chosen location of New Orleans suits the film well and the cinematographer does a good job showing it. The script writer must also be credited for providing the film with interesting pieces of dialogue even though its difficult to tell what was improvised and what was not.
This film is not for everyone though since the trailer shows it as a more of an crime thriller than a drama. If you are not a fan of art house films or films that have an offbeat sense of humor then you might not enjoy it as much as those who do. Those who watch this film and liked it will be able to find plenty of things about the film that represent something else. There is clearly more to this film than what is happening on the surface.
If you do choose to watch this film then go in with an open mind as there is a lot to like but I can't guarantee that it will be for everyone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This wildly entertaining police drama, which takes place in New Orleans
in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, begins with a police officer
being decorated and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant after bravely
saving the life of a prisoner who'd been trapped in a flooded cell. The
officer's injuries leave him with chronic back pain and his dependency
on the painkiller Vicodin soon develops into a powerful addiction. His
situation then worsens when he starts using cocaine and heroin in ever
increasing quantities as he degenerates into behaviour which becomes
reckless, immoral and criminal. This man's experience is harrowing and
extremely disturbing so it's something of a surprise to find that his
story is told in a style which is not only dramatic but also, at times,
Newly promoted Police Lieutenant Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) is put in charge of an investigation into the execution type killing of a Senegalese family of illegal immigrants and information he receives from a known drug user soon confirms that the family were involved in dealing on a local drug lord's territory. This puts McDonagh on the trail of gang leader Big Fate (Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner).
In the course of his investigation, McDonagh loses a teenage witness and in an effort to get the boy's grandmother to disclose his whereabouts, goes to the nursing home where she works, holds a gun to her head and threatens to kill one of the residents (an old lady with a serious respiratory condition) but he draws a blank as it transpires that the witness has emigrated to England.
McDonagh's girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes) is a drug addicted prostitute with whom he shares his drugs. When he goes to see her in a Biloxi hotel room and finds that a client has physically assaulted her, he threatens the man and takes $10,000 from him. This leads to a bigger problem as the man is connected to some gangsters and one of them demands $50,000 from McDonagh and gives him only two days to pay up.
McDonagh is also beset by other problems as his bookie is demanding early settlement of his gambling debts and his alcoholic father is busy drinking himself to death. To make matters worse, McDonagh is then relieved of his duties and sent to work in the evidence room as punishment for the way he'd treated the old lady in the nursing home. McDonagh responds to this indignity by joining forces with Big Fate in a move, which not only solves his problems with the gangster but also provides him with an opportunity to bring his original investigation to a satisfactory conclusion albeit by an extremely unorthodox method.
This movie features an amazing amount of unrestrained craziness and eccentricity and some real laugh out loud moments. McDonagh's use of narcotics often causes him to hallucinate and on some occasions he sees things such as iguanas or a man's spirit break-dancing after he'd been shot dead! Nicolas Cage is ideal for the part of the corrupt cop who uses a lucky crack pipe, as his talent for acting unhinged and hysterically funny at the same time is absolutely extraordinary. The intensity that he achieves in the role which enables him to convey so powerfully, the depths of his character's suffering and determination, is also very impressive.
The worst feature of the movie is its title which is too long and misleading as it suggests that it's a remake or a sequel to Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" (1992). More importantly though, its visual style and the inclusion of Johnny Adams' wonderful rendition of "Release Me" add even more enjoyment to what already is an extremely entertaining account of McDonagh's insane journey through drugs, depravity and unconventional crime fighting.
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