12 February 2010

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Cast: Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif
Writer: William Finkelstein
Director: Werner Herzog
Release: 20 November 2009
First Look Studios, 121 mins., Rated R

Universally held as the return of Nicholas Cage as a serious actor (read: opposite of The Wicker Man, Knowing, Next), The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans could definitely be considered that. Right from the opening scene (opposite Batman himself, Val Kilmer), Cage commands the screen with his erratic behavior and Frank Langella-sounding voice. Now if it wasn't for Cage, who has a performance noteworthy to most only because its him going back to 'serious acting', would this flick still be getting as much buzz as it does?

Overall, the film doesn't offer anything dazzling. At least, nothing I haven't seen already from The Shield, a far superior program that covers a (sort of) similar field. You've got Terrence McDonagh (Cage), a cop who hurt his back rescuing a prisoner post-Katrina in New Orleans. In turn he gets promoted, and becomes addicted to pain medication, cocaine, heroin, crack, and marijuana. His best friend is a prostitute (Mendes); he makes bets with a bookie (Dourif) that he can't pay; and makes some bad ethical decisions that could either A) cost his life, or B) cost a lot of money - which he don't got. A lot of shit piles on Terrence after one bad choice after another, and he does whatever solutions he can think of to get him out on top.

The movie doesn't spend its time pondering ethics. It has a story to tell, and it tells it at break-neck speed. It's complication after complication, and Terrence, running at only a hour of sleep in two days, just does the wrong things at the wrong times.

Notes & Reflections
Werner Herzog directs the movie hand-held, which accomplishes many things: it creates the documentary, immediate-type feeling; it reflects the mentality of Terrence McDonagh, as his day gets worse and worse...and worse; and also could be the handiwork of Terrence's narcotics. Any which way, Herzog is a great director, and this film is no different. However, I gotta call into questions the loooonngggg shots of lizards from their P.O.V. Although, I must admit, the mouth shot of the Alligator looking up at Terrence was pretty damn cool. Thank God I wasn't the cameraman during that particular scene, I would be poopin' me pants.

Cage shares the screen with Eva Mendes (The Spirit), a prostitute who he has a soft spot for. Unfortunately Mendes has little to do than be bossed around by Terrence and look seductive (which she does quite well). Brad Dourif (Halloween II) shows up for a few scenes as Ned, who becomes increasingly agitated with Terrence as he's unable to fulfill his promises. And Val Kilmer (Batman Forever) in a subdued performance as Terrence's bud Stevie, but shows up for only a couple scenes.

Corrupt cop storylines aren't exactly new, and it takes something interesting or different to make the film feel fresh and engaging. The Bad Lieutenant isn't entirely there, but watching Terrence try to do everything in his power to get money and basically win was quite thrilling to watch. I was amazed as he sunk himself lower and lower in a pit that seemed inescapable, and for a ending like that to come out - it was interesting, and I liked it. This is poor praise, but it was much better than Pride and Glory. What's cool about Terrence is that he's a already broken man; broken as in physically, and his personality was already a sort of hard-ass jerk as far as I could tell from the short opening scene, so the owie only intensified and worsened matters. Watching Terrence, and furthermore Nic Cage, just go all out bonkers (such as a scene where he confronts a young couple exiting a club, and makes the gal do some illegal stuff to get out of a ticket) is repulsive and mesmerizing all at the same time.

Awesome Scene of Awesomeness (Spoilers)
Running out of leads and patience, Terrence confronts a witnesses mother at a nursing home at gunpoint, demanding the whereabouts of his missing witness (featured above). Damn that was intense, and Nic Cage went bat-shit crazy.

Final Verdiction
A decent corrupt cop drama that gets props for a fine performance by Nicolas Cage, the presence of a uber-hot Eva Mendes, and the sheer fun of watching Terrence dig himself a deep hole of shitty situations to get himself out of. If there's a in-between of overwhelmed and underwhelmed, that's my feeling post-viewing. Cage definitely is the prime draw of a otherwise average production. Recommended, as it's probably one of the better cop dramas we'll have for a while.

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