Rewind Review – Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

This is quite an unusual Werner Herzog film. Of course, one must realize that the statement is quite nearly oxymoronic in as much as there is no standard or quintessential Herzog film. It just never really seems to have his stamp on it until we start seeing Terence’s hallucinations through our eyes rather than his; or rather in perspective rather than POV.

It is interesting to note Herzog insisted he wasn’t doing a remake but producers added the insinuation with the title, for marketing purposes and in crediting the original writer, for fear of law suit. What is most intriguing and at the same time most vexing about this film is that it is a tale which has a lot of circles, and they all close such that the film is nearly a Spirograph and the beauty of such a thing is in the eye of the beholder. The only reason it is vexing is because all these separate subplots are fine except a majority of them resolve themselves within two minutes of each other to very comedic effect, whether intentional or not.

Nicolas Cage is getting very good reviews for this film and they are deserved, the only minor caveat I will add is that saying this is him at his best may be a little inaccurate. Perhaps this is him in his type. As I scan his filmography I see where I have liked him previously and he was depressed, frantic or addicted to something. Where he’s been most effective has been in The Weather Man, Adaptation and Matchstick Men to mention more previous work, where he usually gets hammered, looks uncomfortable and falters greatly is in action parts like Knowing. No speculation as to why that is but the Nicolas Cage seen in this film is scarcely the same man as he was in Knowing and thank goodness for that because he has to carry the film.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009,  First Look Studios)

In the end it is definitely an interesting film and not your usual fare. It leaves you torn between the comedy and the sad absurdity of the situation. At some point it does almost become a bit too much but all that is alleviated by a brilliantly directed and acted closing scene. A scene which frames the starting point of the troubles in the tale and while substance abuse seems to be over you’re left to wonder about the rest.

What Herzog does in this film can be best described as flirting with film noir. Flirting is as far as it ever goes because Herzog will never tie himself down to the conventions of genre but the seedy underworld elements are there as well as the lack of a moral compass, yet with so many frames thrown into the mix and some of the camera-work it could never be considered as such – barring the obvious fact that it is in color. It also resembles the progeny of those who loved noir, the New Wave, with some standard technique thrown in for good measure.

Herzog really works brilliantly with this cast which is part of what brings such a strange story home in the end. So well does he work with them that two actors in particular were nearly unrecognizable because of how they acted in their roles: one being Xzibit as Big Fate, the drug dealer who is the target of an investigation McDonagh (Cage) is heading the other being Fairuza Balk as a Highway Patrol Officer.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009, First Look Studios)

What is also interesting is that the story followed in the film for a significant portion of it is the execution of an immigrant family in the slums of New Orleans. That investigation vanishes after a while like a red herring but then works its way back in very interestingly.

What Herzog creates here is as always an interesting cinematic experience but also a transparent and approachable story line that perhaps will get people interested in his work. This may be about as close to convention as he ever is but you do get a taste for his style.