BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009)
DVD Review by L. L. Soares
Nicolas Cage is a very unpredictable actor. He’s made a lot of garbage, but several very good films as well. Sometimes he can be very entertaining, even profound. Other times he’s just plain annoying. For every “in it for a paycheck” movie like NATIONAL TREASURE (2004) or FAMILY MAN (2000), he’s given us something worthwhile like WILD AT HEART (1990), LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995), or FACE/OFF (1997).
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS is one of his better films. The fact that the director is German auteur Werner Herzog (director of such film class staples as AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (1972), FITZCARRALDO (1982) and the German sound remake of NOSFERATU (1979) – all with Klaus Kinksi, by the way), certainly doesn’t hurt.
But if you’re a fan of the original BL, don’t come to this one looking for a sequel. There is nothing as harrowing and soul-searching here as there was in Abel Ferrara’s transgressive classic BAD LIEUTENANT (1992). In that movie, Harvey Keitel’s character hit the bottom of the abyss between his gambling, drug use, and overall psychotic behavior while investigating the rape of a nun. He was a man on the verge of complete self-destruction, trying to find redemption in a merciless world, and his performance is agonizing at times.
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009) may have a similar title (and similar bad behavior), but it’s a much more light-hearted affair, even if the humor is gallow’s humor. Cage plays a similar character (in the Keitel film, he was just credited as “The Lieutenant,” but Cage’s character has a name, Terence McDonagh), but instead of seeming on the edge of killing himself, Cage actually seems to be having a fun time. Like Keitel’s character, Cage has a call-girl girlfriend, but this time around she’s played by Eva Mendes and is a bit more high-class in her penthouse apartment than Zoe Lund (Ms. 45 herself) was in her filthy hovel in Ferrara’s film.
In PORT OF CALL, Cage is involved in two storylines. One involves him trying to solve the murder of a Senegalese family, which was drug-related. The other involves gangsters who decide to make Cage’s life a living hell after he harasses one of them for abusing his girlfriend (the guy was a client who got a little too rough). As Cage gets to the bottom of the family’s murder, the two storylines intertwine, for a satisfying resolution. Along the way, Cage makes the trip a lot of fun.
There are also some very odd moments, including an alligator watching the scene of an accident (we see it from the reptile’s point of view), and Cage hallucinating that there are an iguana and a bearded dragon sitting on his desk. Obviously it must be the effects of all the drugs he’s taking, but with a director like Herzog, you can’t always be sure.
Like the Keitel film, there are scenes where the lieutenant abuses his power, like when he pulls couples over to steal their drugs and demands sex from the woman (making her boyfriend watch). And both men have an affinity for crack and bad wagers.
Not a horror film, but a strange film, nonetheless. This fun little nugget gives Cage a chance to chew the scenery and play a totally out-of-control character, often for laughs. Not the masterpiece the Abel Farrara movie was, but I enjoyed it a lot – enough to recommend that people check it out.
© Copyright 2010 by L.L. Soares