— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
Making a film like “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” requires a fearless determination, and luckily, director Werner Herzog has just that.
His unorthodox portrayal of brilliance is presented in the lead character, Terrence McDonagh, a womanizing coke-head that is assigned to the case of five murdered immigrants in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
For fans of the television show “House,” detective McDonagh shares the persona that made Hugh Laurie so popular, but just as I expected in my Trailer Talk for the film, Nicolas Cage pours his heart and soul into playing the character making this one of most memorable performances in his career.
The film starts off with Terrence McDonagh and his partner Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) investigating a flooded prison. After snatching a couple of nude pictures from a locker, McDonagh is faced with the dilemma of getting his cotton underpants wet and saving a drowning prisoner or living him to die in the snake infested waters as his partner suggests. Luckily for the prisoner, McDonagh does not listen to his partner and for his act of heroism, he is promoted to detective and Terrence is quickly assigned to a group of execution-style homicides which are suspected to be a drug-ring’s doing.
Herzog turns what could have been a formulaic plot into a satisfying adventure. Most of the scenes are dedicated to exposing McDonagh’s demons. He regularly goes hunting for drugs and uses unconventional ways of thinking to get close to the drug-ring responsible for the killings. Just like the character Dr. House, to which Terrence McDonagh is easily compared, there is brilliance underneath the darkness of their consciences. Now it’s one thing to craft an interesting character, but there is another to hire an actor fit for the role.
Cage has been on a downward spiral for the past few years with stinkers like “Ghost Rider” in his filmography. But those are easily forgiven after watching his mesmerizing performance. Hopefully this signifies a new age for the actor, a much brighter age.
As for the rest of the cast, one of my favorite actors, Michael Shannon, makes an appearance as a corrupt cop who supplies Cage drugs. Val Kilmer is so blatantly obvious that it’s almost damning, but luckily he only appears in a couple of scenes, and Eva Mendes is instantly forgettable as Cage’s drug-seeking prostitute girlfriend.
“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is a curious bit of film. It raises questions such as “Is this supposed to be taken seriously?” and “Would just be good if someone else directed it?” It’s also the first film where I can safely say that I witnessed a stake-out through an iguana’s perspective or a automobile accident through an alligator’s but Werner Herzog’s departure into a more mainstream market maintains his signature unorthodox direction and its boosted by Nicolas Cage’s performance as the brilliant yet corrupt detective that we hate to love.
Plus, it’s shamelessly hilarious.
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