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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. The murders remain unsolved. A bad lieutenant gets worse.Written by
Is it really as outrageously wild and wacky and dark as its reputation? Yes
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.
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