Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, The (2009)
Release Date: November 20th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Werner Herzog Actors: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Xzibit, Fairuza Balk
he Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans” is excessive and bizarre to the point of lunacy, yet still manages plenty of sadistic entertainment thanks to a remarkably delirious performance from Nicolas Cage. The title law enforcer indulges in copious amounts of hard narcotics throughout (director Werner Herzog likely did as well), but in the moments of clarity, a truly engaging character study emerges. Cage’s unhinged officer abuses his authority while employing blackmail, extortion, theft, and bribery to support his addictions to drugs, gambling, and prostitutes – everything expected in a hero.
In post-Katrina New Orleans, recently promoted Lieutenant Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) finds his life in a steady downward spiral of cocaine addiction, gambling debts, and random sex. This comes after a brief stint as a hero during the storm crisis. But when the Lieutenant is placed in charge of a major homicide investigation, he resorts to unorthodox methods of sleuthing (which include all manner of law breaking) to simultaneously solve the crime and fend off the numerous forces of impending self destruction.
After his initial promotion, it takes six months for celebrated cop McDonagh to go from good to bad to worse. Or was he ever good? On a routine five-person execution-style murder case, it seems that nothing goes as planned for the crooked cop, who must resort to gambling, rape, drugs, backstabbing, and repeatedly exercising unconstitutional acts to finally get ahead. As if to wholeheartedly support vigilantism, Herzog insists that every poor decision made by the bad lieutenant winds up aiding in a worthwhile solution and a considerably twisted sense of justice.
The film takes too long getting to its point, which will likely disgust, displease, and turn away a great many audience members. While not as extreme as Ferrara’s corrupt cop flick with a similar name, the sexual assault, nonstop drug use, language, violence, and preoccupation with alligators and iguanas isn’t for everyone. It’s like a slow-moving episode of “Law and Order” with an exceptionally off-the-wall character study thrown in. Cage is excitingly nuanced and makes a splendidly strange anti-hero, while dark humor rears its unpredictable face frequently – but perhaps not often enough to keep the tone consistent. An interesting turn of events flips over so many times that by the end of it all, the coincidences, purposes, and subtexts of the film are almost completely lost to delusional hallucinations and psychotic laughter. Maybe it’s really just about a guy seeking a remedy for back pain.
– The Massie Twins