Police procedurals do not come any more entertaining or eccentric than the overdue Werner Herzog / Nicolas Cage collaboration, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.
Any reservations that this is a straight forward remake of Abel Ferrara’s hardcore Catholic redemption drama should be left on the wayside, for this Bad Lieutenant is a different monster all together.
A stealth satire of the police procedural, corrupt crime movie, and redemptive crime drama is rolled into one ingenious crime parody, led by an in form and out of this world Nicolas Cage in his best performance since Adaptation. That it would invoke the ultimate “bad cop gone wild” film in its title only makes sense.
Cage stars as Terrece McDonagh, a homicide detective working a high profile case in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Problem is Terrence is working the beat either high on drugs, or searching for his next fix, the result of a back injury sustained on duty.
His addiction gives way to all kinds of crazy, surreal behaviour which Herzog captures beautifully in full frame, taking the occasional time out to delve into his fetish for nature, including one wacked out sequence involving an alligator.
Whether the obvious pokes at the cop movie is an act of tribute or distaste on Herzog’s part is a mystery.
One thing for certain is Herzog’s dislike for authority, in his portrayal of cops as gunslingers open to all forms of corruption. To quote the film’s best line: “A man without a gun is not a man”.
We have seen cops operate above the law for as long as the cop movie has existed, yet Cage’s Terrence still manages to surprise: unsuspecting night time revellers are jacked for their dope; moonlighting as a pimp for his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes) brings unwanted trouble from the mob; and gambling debts spiral out of control.
Yet while Harvey Keitel’s similar antics in the 1992 original brought on pity and disgust, Cage’s corrupt copper can’t help but entertain.
It's is a performance worthy of Cage's unique brand of madness. As his character’s decrepit existence progresses, a curious metamorphoses occurs... a hunchbacked develops...a cocky swagger transforms into a rigid shuffle...a voice akin to a 1940s gangster struggles to make its way through a clenched jaw.
"Lucky" Crack pipes are smoked, and illusions involving iguana’s and break dancing souls bamboozle. Herzog pushes Cage to the brink of abnormal behaviour portrayed with glorious over the top acting, and Cage more than happily complies.
Could it be that Herzog has found his new Klaus Kinski? Has Cage finally found a director who can tap into his vast yet eccentric talents?
If The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is any indication, let’s hope both men decide to go another round.