Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans ***

Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes
Val Kilmer, Jennifer Coolidge, Fairuza Balk, Brad Dourif
Michael Shannon, Shawn Hatosy, Denzel Whitaker, Xzibit
Shea Wigham, Irma P. Hall, Tom Bower

Lieutenant Terence McDonagh (Cage) is the kind of man that would drive a car from New Orleans to Biloxi, to deliver his father's (Bower) dog to his prostitute girlfriend Frankie (Mendes) while taking care of a young crime witness (Whitaker) and snorting cocaine.
He is also the kind of man who gives Nicolas Cage the opportunity to ensue in the kind of deranged brilliance few actors can achieve like he does, when he's given the chance.
His performance is an exercise in excess and contradiction: while investigating a massacre Terence seems more frightened of a couple of iguanas than drug dealing thugs armed to their teeth.
He roams the Big Easy with a hunch (due to a spinal condition that keeps him in constant pain) and tells everyone to fuck themselves if they come in between him and his plans, which usually involve getting drugs or money to pay his bookies.
At one point his superior reminds him "you can not get away with that cowboy shit anymore", emphasis on the anymore as Herzog contemplates how the always decadent, but once glorious city fell under the wrath of Katrina and became a boiling pot for crime and corruption.
He's not talking about New Orleans exclusively but about a whole world that is becoming known for the evils that lurk in unexpected places always pushing the boundaries.
A world that's saying to us "think I can't get away with this?".
It's because of this world that an authority figure like Terence can get away with raping a girl while threatening her boyfriend with a gun and a drug lord (Xzibit) is suspected of trafficking but not murder.
Herzog fills his movie with red herrings that hook us as we become fascinated by Terence's behavior.
With Cage, the German iconoclast creates one of the funniest characters to come out in the past decade, all while paying tribute to a genre that's dying precisely because we know now that the good guys and heroes rarely come in uniforms.
Their vision of the world might not be optimistic, but sometimes we just have to take them in whatever shape they come in.


Luke said...

Gotta say, this movie makes me kind of nervous. The trailer was a little tentative, and I can definitely count Nicholas Cage among my least favorite actors (up there with Kevin Costner and Sylvester Stallone, even). The only thing I've been able to stand him in was Adaptation (and The Family Man, weirdly enough). So answer me this -- is a Cage-hater going to like this movie?

Jose said...

I'm not a Cage fan, I've only been able to stand him in "Adaptation", I even shudder when I think of his "National Treasure" flicks and "The Rock", and I still thought he was fantastic in this one.
I think it's Herzog who does the trick. He works with Cage's annoying qualities to deliver something you never see coming.