It's really difficult to comment on Werner Herzog's latest offering, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. First off, the title should alert you to the fact that this is a send up of the cop crime genre, which is not to be confused with Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (1992) starring Harvey Keitel. Both focus on a bad cop with a drug addiction, are based on the same script but are made with different intentions. Herzog has made a name for himself as a daring and unorthodox director with films that push the limit. He's capable of greatness as exemplified by recent Herzog films like Grizzly Man and Rescue Dawn. However, The Bad Lieutenant is one of those films you'd expect from fellow infamous German director, Uwe Boll. Where does film genius depart for sheer madness, what makes a bad film good - you've got to draw the line somewhere.
This is not a parody of the cop crime genre, but one of the movie industry. Herzog has successfully made a bad '80s style crime drama, riddled with cliches and dominated by Nic Cage in one of the most over-the-top performances in his career as Terence McDonagh. Cage is intentionally hamming it up with Herzog's roving camera following the "bad lieutenant" on his exploits as he steals drugs off criminals and basically runs amok. This addict cop has free reign over the city, unburdened by the law, diminished by his aching back and always ready for his next snort of cocaine.
The film has been done in an '80s style with laughable symbols, introducing the film with a snake weaving between the bars of a flooded prison cell and old style block lettering for the title. Herzog has purposefully dressed down the look and feel of The Bad Lieutenant, making it seem 25 years old. At the helm, Nicolas Cage swaggers around like a hunchback wielding the best worst performance of his career. He knows how to loosen his collar and this time he may as well have taken his shirt off as well.
There's a manic lunacy at the centre of this unorthodox cop movie with Cage fumbling around screen and various characters having a quick snort of coke to get the party started. The cast is made up of some sterling fringe actors and others that haven't been on form of late... here's looking at you, Val Kilmer. Eva Mendes plays a prostitute after the two starred opposite each other in the equally forgettable Ghost Rider. Val Kilmer is McDonagh's cop partner, while Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Shannon and Xzibit round-off the name stars.
The Bad Lieutenant has been made to be bad and there are one or two moments that will get a laugh, but this is not easy-going entertainment... it's intentionally schlocky, frustratingly bad, lacks a clear story, is sketchy on character motivation and would have been better served as The Bad Cop, or the Cage-Herzog show. The odd couple do have a director-actor synergy, which maintains some degree of continuity, but it's wasted. The Bad Lieutenant isn't funny enough to be a parody, lacks the impetus or enough likable characters to make satisfying entertainment and at best is worthy of a minor cult following... at least Ed Wood Jr. was trying.
Nicolas Cage is trying to resurrect his film career like Tom Cruise did in Tropic Thunder and unfortunately, it's an alienating performance. Werner Herzog has had the gall to make a detestable film and there's a strong contingent of movie-going public that probably will get a kick out of this film. For the rest of us, it's an exasperating experience that is maddening at best and an absolute waste of time and patience at worst... waiting for The Beastie Boys to burst through the screen and make a cameo appearance.
If you think film is meant to make a bold statement, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans has succeeded. However, if you view movies as a medium primarily concerned with escape, a journey metered for maximum enjoyment by competent film-making - this fails miserably. This movie reviewer is just surprised at how Herzog and Cage have managed to earn such sterling reviews for a film that goes against the grain, breaking every rule in the book... it's like winning a medal for coming last with style. Frankly, I'd rather watch an Uwe Boll film in slow-motion.
The bottom line: Terrible.