Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans (2010)


The big surprise coming out of Werner Herzog’s slight remix of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 cult film, is that its leading man Nicholas Cage who actually stamps his mark on proceedings, and in doing so out shines the German mad man and now Hollywood prankster. 

Set in New Orleans the black comedy, with a pulp feel to it sees Cage as drug addicted cop Terence McDonagh who along with hard nut partner Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) likes to stretch the rules as far as possible to crack a crime.  As well as the trouble he has keeping it together at work, in his personal life he is seeing sweet natured, if naive prostitute Frankie (Eva Mendes) who is constantly dragging Terence into dodgy situations, the irony being he causes more problems than Frankie.  A turning point comes after the murder of a group of Senegalese immigrants gives McDonagh a moral purpose.   

Finding the part to pick his flounding career out of the ditch, Cage injects a lethal poison into the part of the conflicted, but ultimately deranged cop.  The volume is turned up to eleven, the facial ticks sweaty, and unpredictable, and his body movements meticulous.  Attention to detail is spot on, for example early in the film, our man picks up a back injury, and carries on the job regardless, and Cage sells this brilliantly, walking around in a certain crouched down manner.  Picking up from his roles in such favourites as Wild at Heart and Leaving Las Vegas the star totally dominates the screen, and had me hanging on his every word.  This is a sad reminder than on his day Cage can match a true great like Brando, but is too interested in fame or playing it safe.

This is not just a reboot of the Ferrara version which is much bleaker in tone, and sees the Harvey Keitel cop go on a much more vivid journey of redemption (here Cage isn’t that evil to begin with, just morally confused), the problem is it’s not enough of a Werner Herzog film. 

We do get the view of the world from a few of New Orleans wild creatures, these trippy scenes reminding us of the filmmaker’s love for putting his stars out in nature and questioning just who the real beasts are.  However those moments are few and far between and we are left, with a fairly exciting, slick, but slightly empty experience where Cage is the only character of any note.  A missed opportunity for me was in Terence and Frankie’s  relationship which seemed to be building to something a little more substantial, before being let down.  The fact Eva Mendes was almost given a chance to shine, but instead was labelled in a ditzy, quirky role suggests to me that maybe Herzog doesn’t actually know how to create a strong female part.  There is however a glorious cameo for Brad Dourif as McDonagh’s cranky bookie.

The message here is very different to the other Bad Lieutenant, that film says that even the most evil of sprits can be redeemed, just after going to hell and back, this time we are told that no matter how bad a cop is, he or she can always twist the law, and use a corrupt system to come out the other end in a even higher position.  It’s food for thought, but doesn’t really cover any new ground, and if you are a Herzog regular you might want to give it a miss.

Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer
Runtime: 122 min
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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  1. Kevin Matthews says

    I am seeing this one soon and very much looking forward to it. A good point about Herzog’s problem with strong female roles – HAS he ever managed it??

  2. Tue Sorensen says

    “3.75”? Is that out of 10…?

  3. Robin Yacoubian says

    My mistake – corrected to 6.5!

  4. Tue Sorensen says

    Ah, so the half stars are your conversions from a six-star rating system? I wondered about that… I have to say I think using half-stars when you have 10 to make good with is a bit flippant, but, on the other hand, when I was younger I sometimes gave out ratings with 7 or 8 decimals, just for the heck of it… 😀

  5. Robin Yacoubian says

    Half stars are cool in my book!

  6. Keith Beard says

    Just to clear this up, I do like to be accurate with ratings, so to me to give something a six out of ten, would make that film avenge, BL isn’t quite that poored, but like wise the flaws do prevent it from being good enough to be a seven I guess to sum up, it wasn’t quite the film I was hoping, but did have its moments, and the Cage performance lifted it.

  7. Justin Smith says

    I enjoyed the film, but it did have its shortcomings.

  8. Miguel Rosa says

    I couldn’t give this movie less than 8. It was hilarious, audacious and different. Nicolas Cage was so good I felt sorry for the lousy career he’s had lately. Why isn’t he giving more performances like this on a regular basis?

    I took two friends with me to watch this and both thanked me for it, we had a great time. It was so over the top! Cinema doesn’t hold surprises like The Bad Lieutenant very often these days.

  9. Keith Beard says

    Yeah it was a lot of fun, but that doesn’t make it a great film. Trouble is so much of the fun comes from Cage’s performance, the rest of the film doesn’t live up to it. Plus it didn’t have a great deal new to say.

  10. Miguel Rosa says

    Sometimes there isn’t anything new to say, just new ways of saying it. And I think this movie showed a nervous breakdown and drug-induced insanity in a unique way.

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