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Friday, November 20, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW
Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans

Days and Nights of The Iguana


Let's go get stoned: Nicolas Cage as Lt. Terence McDonagh and Eva Mendes as Frankie in Werner Herzog's
"Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans", which opened today.     Lena Herzog/First Look Studios

By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, November 20, 2009

Werner Herzog lightens the mood considerably in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans", a film not meant as a sequel but as an inevitable companion to Abel Ferrara's dour arthouse cult classic "Bad Lieutenant" from 1992.  Nicolas Cage brings all the camp and debauchery that epitomized his roles in "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Face/Off" to his latest onscreen character New Orleans Police Lieutenant Terence McDonagh, a coked-up, amoral mess of a cop who breaks the law to put away the bad apples.  Since he himself is one of those apples things promise to be very interesting.

Early on a family from the African continent is brutally murdered and the relatives demand justice.  The murder investigation seems to spiral into nowhere as the audience is immersed in the headspace of Lt. McDonagh.  Mr. Herzog relies on William Finkelstein's screenplay to conveniently dispense of ill-conceived, weak plot lines for a film that is sometimes funny but mostly ridiculous.

Mr. Cage's affectations for McDonagh -- wildness, subversion and abrupt laughs of incredulity after saying a certain criminal's initial -- keep boredom from setting in.  His hunched-over posture, unsteady gait and often mumbling speechifying are either an imitation of bad acting or an illustration of his character reacting to the absurdity of the pathetic situation he is in.  McDonagh isn't necesarily acknowledging his own dysfunction however, unlike Harvey Keitel's more brooding, introspective New York private dick in Mr. Ferrara's film.  For all Mr. Cage's maniacal fervor and excitability, one wonders whether Michael Rooker would have been a better fit for this Bayou blunder.  Mr. Rooker may have played the role with more intensity, ala Mr. Keitel, rather than create the wicked carnival that Mr. Cage does here. 

Eva Mendes soldiers through uneasily here as Frankie, a drug-addled prostitute and McDonagh's girlfriend but she is merely a conduit to furthering her boyfriend's own misadventures.  Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner (seen earlier this year in "American Violet") plays a drug dealer suspected of the African family's massacre and is a man that Lt. McDonagh can do business with.  Val Kilmer, who appeared in the Louisiana film "Deja Vu", plays one of McDonagh's police officer colleagues.

Mr. Herzog ("Encounters At The End Of The World") employs a mostly drab vision of the Big Easy, though the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina are kept mostly out of sight.  And instead of letting a bleak canvas (photographed by Peter Zeitlinger) speak loudly and stand alone, the director inserts the kinds of visual gimmicks more appropriately at home in a David Lynch film to convey a state of mind.  Mr. Cage's facial ticks and weary self-adulation sufficiently carry the day even in this swollen display of swamp injustice, so the occasional addition of over-direction by Mr. Herzog is curious.  At such moments you wonder whether the director trusts his Oscar-winning star enough to run through the brick walls that he does to keep this disappointing film afloat.

With: Vondie Curtis-Hall, Fairuza Balk, Jennifer Coolidge, Brad Dourif, Denzel Whitaker, Michael Shannon, Shawn Hatosy, Shea Whigham, Tom Bower, Lance E. Nichols, Brandi Coleman and Irma P. Hall.

"Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for drug use and language throughout, some violence and sexuality.  The film's running time is two hours and one minute.       

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