Director: Werner Herzog
Reviewed: May 2010
jamesintexas rating:--*** 1/2
Herzog never makes a boring film, and although I've only seen Grizzly Man and Rescue Dawn, I've heard plenty of interviews with the German director, and his focus seems acutely different than a typical Hollywood director. Herzog takes some risks in this film: employing the tic-filled Nicolas Cage to play the lead character in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans, setting the film in post-Katrina New Orleans with bridges, landmarks, and animals always lurking around the edge of the frame.
Cage plays Terence McDonagh, a crooked cop of sorts, hooked on junk ever since he injured his back, a gambler, a close friend to prostitute Frankie, played by Eva Mendes (though their relationship does not seem sexual), and a man struggling to steal as much out of the property room as possible. I will be the first to say that I have not seen the first Bad Lieutenant film with Harvey Keitel, so I won't be comparing the two films here. However, I felt that Nicolas Cage won me over by the end of this film, and I was palpably moved by McDonagh's wrestling with his demons.
Cage's histrionics are fun, as are the occasional iguanas that linger in the foreground of scenes. "What are these ****in' iguanas doing on my coffee table" McDonagh growls to Stevie, played by the always watchable Val Kilmer. Herzog keeps his camera in interesting places, suggesting many things, noticing bridges and church steeples poking out in the distance behind neighborhoods. The soundtrack works, and the scene towards the end at McDonagh's desk is well-staged.
Warning: this movie is bizarre, filled to the brim with interesting, quirky performances, difficult to stomach at times, but ultimately, I was exhilarated by it all. A scene where McDonagh accosts two young people on their way out of a club is terrifying and then sickening. A scene in a retirement home is brutal and difficult to watch. I wish Nicolas Cage would stick to acting in films like this, and stop showboating in action films. His talent is considerable.