The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Nicolas Cage has long been an actor I have been fascinated by. Only recently have I begun to truly appreciate what a talented actor he is. I try to ignore some of his failures such as the two National Treasure films and The Wicker Man. But even in his misadventures, Cage remains a viable force that Hollywood needs. His unorthodox persona and undeniable likability draws me in to each and every one of his performances.
I won't declare Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans his greatest role to date, but indoubtedly it is one of his best and bravest. Only he could play the role of Terrence McDonagh, a New Orleans police officer who is promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the first five minutes of the film. He also injures his back in an attempt to rescue a prisoner who is trapped in his flooded jail cell in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After this incident he begins an addiction to vicodin, cocaine, and crack among other drugs, although it is left unclear if he had these addictions before the injury occurred.
A brutal massacre of an African immigrant family takes place and McDonagh is the lead detective on the case. His dependence on coke becomes more evident as the movie progresses. One the greatest moments of the film comes when a police squad is surveiling a suspects house and McDonagh believes that two iguanas are sitting on the coffee table which turns out to be a hallucination. He becomes increasingly strung out after he threatens a client of his prostitute girlfriend, Frankie, played by Eva Mendes. In turn, Italian mobsters tell him he must repay a debt. He owes $5,000 in gambling debts which he keeps falling deeper into. Meanwhile he starts collaborating with the druglord (Xzibit) suspected perpetrating the murder that he is investiagting.
During this entire time, Cage manages to remain at a perfect level of intensity. He never goes over the top when it is unnecessary. Mostly he just grimmaces in pain, or scowls during the course of the movie. His outbursts of anger are rhythmically timed in the manner that Cage always performs. Towards the end of the film his behaviour becomes erratic due to the drug use.
But a lot of credit deserves to go to director Werner Herzog, who has long been one of my favorite directors. Herzog's cavalier style works well with the chaotic life of McDonagh which worstens when his life spirals out of control. Herzog's abilities kept this film from becoming a predictable cop drama. Instead it is an interesting character study of a man's dependence on drugs without falling the realms of a movie like Rush.
He builds incredible suspense in certain scenes The film's ending left me dumbfounded because it was something I did not expect, and something I liked despite wanting something different. The film's screenplay was written by William M. Finkelstein whose prior credits mostly consist of police procedural shows such as Law & Order and NYPD Blue. But this script was perfectly penned to create a great pace for the film.
This is truly one of the best films that I've seen this year. I'm convinced that Nicolas Cage deserves an Academy Award for his performance in Bad Lieutenant, and Werner Herzog should receive a nomination at least. Herzog hasn't made a great narrative film in many years; rather it has been his documentaries which have been far more impressive. This truly deserves recognition of other great Herzog trimumphs like Aguirre, The Wrath of God or Fitzcarraldo. All of the supporting characters such as Val Kilmer, Mendes, Jennifer Coolidge, and Xzibit do solid jobs as well. Werner Herzog's kinetic film style combined with Cage's make this a film well worth seeing.