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This film is 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
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. 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/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
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 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.
Herzog's popularity, and some might say his entire career, came from
his long partnership with the incomparable firestorm of an actor Klaus
Kinski. In Herzog's own words, their "joint derangement must have
converged to create great art". Whether Herzog was referring to
Kinski's explosive fury on screen or something more insidious such as
the real life allegations that Kinski sexually molested his daughter
from age 5 to 19, we don't know. My point is that Herzog had the
ability to draw on Kinski's madness & evil to create some very
memorable films about precisely that: madness & evil ("Aguirre",
"Fitzcarraldo", "Nosferatu"). After Kinski died, Herzog's films were
considerably less explosive although he still pushed those dark themes.
Here in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans", once again we get the familiar themes of madness and depravity, and although it doesn't quite strike that horrifying Kinski vein, it has moments of brilliance thanks to an excellent acting job by Nicolas Cage.
We also get, at the core, a well-written story by William Finkelstein who wrote extensively for gritty TV crime dramas like "NYPD Blue", "Law & Order" and "L.A. Law".
It's the story of a rogue New Orleans cop who is investigating a series of murders while he himself flirts with depravity as he battles with drug-related issues and moral degradation. What's important to note is the familiar Herzoggian theme of madness and the thrill of of evil on the human soul. Cage plays a detective who, on the surface, is a cool-tempered & intelligent hero, a likable guy really. But he begins to descend into depravity, and there are 1 or 2 moments of outright sickening behavior (such as falsely arresting, then having sex with a woman in exchange for letting her go). This is not a film for the morally faint of heart. It is intended to morally shock us, and that it does.
But what's interesting is the way Cage's portrayal remains heroic (the good guy), unlike Kinski's villainous portrayals (the monster). In the past, Herzog-Kinski films presented us with a vision of evil which thrilled us in a guilty way, as if we're passing a gory car wreck. Here we have the much more comfortable yet equally challenging perspective of watching a good guy who can't resist the thrill of depravity. So from a safer distance from evil, we can watch the story unfold.
I don't know if it's that subtle thematic difference, or simply the idea that Nicolas Cage is not an alleged incestuous child abuser, that made me enjoy this film in a lighter way. I should note that this film also carries much more humor and playful dark comedy than any of Herzog's other films I've seen. In the 2nd half of the film, Cage's frenetic portrayal of a coked-up, cracked-up drug fiend was done a comedic air... along with some hilarious surreal visuals & music (the break dancing scene had me laughing out loud).
Ultimately, we get a "morality tale" which is very gritty, very comic, very morally disturbing, and yet it doesn't leave us with a sick feeling like certain other films which explore the evil nature of human beings. In fact, with the exception of the disturbing sexual bribe scene, "Bad Lieutenant" could almost be watched as a dark comedy from start to finish. It's a different approach for Herzog, one which would be great to see him explore in the future.
Final note worth mentioning, since Herzog's early films were notorious for having real animal abuse/killing that may disturb some viewers: Yes, there is a scene of a dead alligator with her guts spilled out, and yes it is real. But according to the DVD extras, the alligator carcass was purchased from (presumably) New Orleans animal control because it was a "nuisance alligator eating people's pets and stuff." I think there was an American Humane "no animals harmed" disclaimer at the end of the movie.
-No spoilers here...
A darkly-twisted, hilariously-unhinged,, satirically-farcical story of one man doing what's right... for himself.
A lot of debate is centered around whether this film is connected to Abel Ferrara's Film from the 1980's. Save some time and trust me on this, the answer is NO, IT IS NOT CONNECTED TO IT AT ALL..
Many people are divided about this reinvention of the cops and robbers, good guy bad guy genre... Some love it, some don't.. et all.
It is one of those films that, while obviously you have to see it for yourself, I believe many will use as a benchmark to judge another persons sense of humour... Maybe even intellect.
It's just that good!!!
For me, it's a seriously clever and uniquely funny crossover between the independent and mainstream style of cinema.
I have not seen NicCage act better or as well for a long, long time. You do not need to be a follower of the cult of Herzog to enjoy this film either.
It's instantly accessible to anyone with a twisted laugh and an evil grin... Mua..Hahaha... All jokes aside, if I was ever PC it would be high on my list of guilty pleasures(Luckily that's never been a problem, though). It's one of the few films out of thousands I've seen that I make an effort to recommend to people I don't even know...
-Take time out and enjoy the great Werner Herzog directing hilariously good fun out of the darkest corners in our reality...
If you don't like it, at least you'll know you're one of them... :)
Nic Cage is a living, breathing cartoon character of a personality and
actor as well, and the best filmmakers seem to grasp intuitively that
the best way to have Nic in a movie--the only way, really--is to first
be sure they've got for him an appropriately comical, ironic,
melodramatic or surreal story. This one happens to be all four, to a
serious degree. It also features compelling and offbeat relationships
and unexpected, wild action, all of it slyly hypnotic and even
gripping. It'd be fair to describe this film as a tense crime drama
that's regularly relieved by comical gags if it weren't for the fact
that the perfectly timed humorous beats are so damn hysterical--and so
weird. The outrageously absurd, profoundly wacky moments so thoroughly
overwhelm the more somber, dark and disturbing moments--not in quantity
but in sublime intensity--that they thoroughly dislodge us from any
dependable emotional or psychological perch and it's hard to know with
any confidence from instant to instant what we're expected to feel or
think, which, apparently, is very much intentional. We're being toyed
with, and not coyly but blatantly, maybe even wickedly.
The director, Werner Herzog, is a connoisseur of contradiction and paradox as he's eloquently and masterfully demonstrated in many of his films, such as the bleakly absurd "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," or the incredibly preposterous "Fitzcarraldo," or the often delightfully campy "Nosferatu the Vampyre" where subtle humor is so effectively collided against genuinely poignant drama. But this one's on a whole different level, and it's entirely the fault of Nic Cage and his nearly demented, turbocharged performance as an increasingly crazed, spiraling out of control, drug addicted crooked cop.
As his character's condition deteriorates and his affliction and corruption possess him to the core not only does Nic begin to distort his appearance and posture to match his deepening pathology but his voice as well becomes increasingly warped as it grows more high pitched and nasal, as though the mounting stress is compressing him like a squeeze toy. It's beyond silly but it somehow works, at least on the level of his character's distorted, perverted perspective.
Often the soundtrack is emphatically offbeat, quirky and disruptive, working in counterpoint to the pace and tone of the unfolding action, but the musical score might then quickly shift to more traditional rhythms more in sync with the apparent mood of the scene which only renders those moments all the more unsettling. It's a very subversive technique inciting a creeping, crawling uncertainty deep within the subconscious, at a primal level; a sincerely surreal experience punctuated so ridiculously, so blatantly by the hallucinogenic appearances of those damn freaky iguanas. So freaky...
It's disorienting--in the best way--to be so constantly jerked, jolted and yanked around by a movie, especially when it's all being done so well, so confidently. Werner Herzog has crafted a sincerely bizarre, wild ride; a rare and special cinematic experience that will appeal to--and thrill--aficionados of superior, if idiosyncratic storytelling. Very much recommended above all else for its uniquely unorthodox, unhinged vibe.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not very sure if I could consider this as an actual remake of Abel
Ferrara's 1992 film, "Bad Lieutenant" (Since both movies have almost no
similarities in what concerns to plot, character and development)so I
won't make any comparison between those two films: Instead of that, I
prefer to say that I really liked this film. For me, it was an
excellent combination of black comedy and suspense, being one of the
most original and most bizarre crime thrillers ever made.
I must say that I haven't seen many Werner Herzog's films (Just "Rescue Dawn", "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" and this one) but this film was my favorite of those three movies. The direction of this film was pretty solid, and even the strangest situations that happen in this film are delivered in a pretty interesting way.
In this movie Nicolas Cage does one of his best performances, playing a complete opposite character of his usual roles, and I have to admit that he did an extraordinary work here.
"Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" not an ordinary cop drama. It is something much better than that, being fresh, unique and original. My advice to those who are planning to see this movie is to don't expect a serious, gritty movie, but instead something quite surreal, that could be pretty dark, but very funny and strange at the same time. For me this combination of seriousness, dark comedy and weirdness was something pretty effective.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After Katrina, police sergeant Terence McDonagh rescues a prisoner,
hurts his back in the process and earns a promotion to lieutenant plus
an addiction to cocaine and painkillers.
Six months later, a family is murdered over drugs; Terence runs the investigation. His drug-using prostitute girlfriend, 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 then his life in danger.
He starts seeing things. He wants a big score to get out from under mounting debts, so he joins forces with drug dealers.
After a few years in the wilderness of decidedly dodgy movies, Cage is back in his full blown, over the top best (he probably hasn't been this maniacal since face/off)under the supervision of genius Herzog.
any similarities to the Ferrera movie is in title alone, as this really has nothing to do with that film. It appears that the titular character is on the road to redemption in this film, doing something good in the beginning, and being punished for it throughout the film.
We meet some bizarre characters throughout the movie, and ironically the only 'normal' characters in the film are the perpetrators of the film. Cages accent changes almost halfway through the film for some bizarre reason, and his limp and gait becomes more prominent toward the third act.
Connotations toward hallucinations and drug taking are rife throughout, and sometimes we are viewing the world through Neils eyes, rather than that of the viewer.
Herzog makes brilliant use of camera work and the sets, and the cinematography is sometimes very psychedelic.
For a film that is so downbeat at times, the ending is surprisingly uplifting and happy, Neils path to redemption appears complete, despite the strange ending.
With nods to Lynch and DePalma, this is one of those movies, that will become depressingly more popular as time goes on, rather than when initially released.
Very well made with a few quirky effects
I loved 'Iguana-cam'
particularly (you'll know what I mean if you've seen it). But the thing
that stands out most about this picture is the performance of Nicolas
Cage as Terence McDonagh; they say for every three duds there's one
and believe me, this is well worth a look! He's really
great in this. I also thought Eva Mendes did an excellent job as
Frankie Donnenfield. Honourable mentions go to; Val Kilmer, who I
thought was underused as Stevie Pruit, Xzibit as gangster, Big Fate and
Jennifer Coolidge as Genevieve.
The combination of Cage's excellent performance and the direction of Herzog works a treat (for me). I know the film failed to impress that much at the American box office and I think it may be because it perhaps went a little far in showing McDonah's decline. I did feel the events leading up to the ending seemed a little rushed; having spent so much time showing him reach that point. Over all though, I thought it was rather good and deserved a better reception than it got (For me), RECOMMENDED.
My score: 8.3/10
IMDb Score: 6.8/10 (based on 39,833 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: 69/100: (Based on 32 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes 'Tomatometer' Score: 87/100 (based on 135 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes 'Audience' Score: 52/100 'Liked it' (based on 50,683 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
You can find an expanded version of this review on my blog: Thoughts of a SteelMonster.
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