Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans | Werner Herzog, 2009
Nicolas Cage is a great actor, but by looking at his recent work you wouldn’t know it. It seems that, at his age, he is keen at becoming some sort of action hero. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he has never looked like an action-hero type of guy. However, every once in a while he picks a script, or works with a director that gets him, and thus forces him to channel all that energy that he has into a good performance. Yet, it seems that no other person really understood what he was about, until Werner Herzog came into his life. Herzog is a director known for his eccentric movies, as well as his own eccentricities and oddball behavior (he once save Joaquin Phoenix from a car crash, and left the scene right after pulling him out of the car). So, only something good could have come out from a movie pairing up these two, and it did. And the work of both of them save the movie from being just an average corrupt cop movie.
The Opening of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans takes place directly after Hurricane Katrina ravaged through New Orleans. Two cops, Terrence McDonagh (Cage) and Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer), are picking up some stuff from a prison, when they realize that an inmate has been left behind and he could drown. They see him and they could just have abbandoned him, but McDonagh jumps in to save him. In the next shot, we see him at a doctor’s office being told that he will have back pain for the rest of his life because of an injury he sustained during the rescue. Becuase of his bravery, he gets a special honor and gets promoted to lieutenant.
Fast forward six months, and he is a drug addict and is leading an investigation of a massacre where a family of five died. The event was drug related, and this leads him to get deeper into the world of drugs. Along the way, he gets in trouble for gambling, gets in trouble with bad people for trying to help his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes), hallucinates iguanas, and threatens old ladies.
The story is nothing we haven’t seen before. The script is good, but the plot brings nothing new to the table. The reasons why this movie succeeds is because of Herzog’s direction, and because of Cage’s incredible performance. Herzog takes the plot and makes it fresh. His approach the craziness (iguanas, dancing souls), is so good and funny, yet fits within the rest of the movie. Yet, the highlight of his work is how he hadled the scene where everything comes together. The way he shoots it, and the performances during that scene, literally left me speechless during the rest of the movie. Now, onto Cage and the rest of the performances.
I’ve already said that cage is amazing. The role of Lt. McDonagh fits him like a glove. He gets to be crazy, energetic, and he gets into the role. I honestly forgot I was watching the guy who made the The Wicker Man remake. His performance is one of the best male performances of the year. The rest of the cast, although shadowed by Cage, also turn in really good work. Eva Mendes gives the best performance of her career so far as McDonagh’s girlfriend. You can see the love she has for McDonagh, and the performance never feels false. Then there are appearances by Michael Shannon, Xzibit, and Val Kilmer, with all of them giving it their all.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is one of the best movies of the year.