Tuesday, 11 May 2010

New Release - The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans


Whilst many hailed the original Bad Lieutenant as groundbreaking for its time, watching it now just doesn’t hold the same appeal, mindless violence and drug addled cops are no longer as controversial a topic as they were twenty years ago. Abel Ferrara is known for his gritty portrayal of urban life but even with the King of New York, his ventures appear dated and no longer as valid when compared to the back catalogue of auteurs such as the mighty Werner Herzog. Thank god then that it was Herzog who undertook the task of re-imagining one of Ferrara’s works and not the other way round, and by God, he did a bloody good job of it too.

Set in the decaying suburbs of New Orleans after the onslaught of hurricane Katrina, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans follows the recently promoted police officer, Terence McDonagh, as he investigates the killing of five immigrants whilst struggling to battle his own ongoing problems with hard drugs and gambling. Loosely based on the original Bad Lieutenant released in 1992, Herzog’s version cannot be called a remake. Gone is the volatile and unpredictable Harvey Keitel who starred in the original, and in his place, but not treading on his shoes, is a darkly humorous Nicolas Cage - following on from his extraordinary performance in Kick-Ass with another exceptional turn.

The unconventional plot line may confuse fans of dross thrillers such as Edge of Darkness and Law Abiding Citizen, but is essential to the character development, as McDonagh meanders from one surreal situation to the next without any real progression for the first half hour. That being said, these encounters are exactly what you would expect from a Herzog film, and as the plot begins to unfold,  this warped humour becomes a perfect partner to the depravity of Cage’s character.

As McDonagh grapples with his drug problems, these fantastical occurrences increase, with the appearance of reptiles such as crocodiles and lizards strangely reminiscent of Jonny Depp’s drug fuelled hallucinations as Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The results of which culminate in a baffling break-dancing sequence that will remain in your mind a long time after leaving the cinema, especially considering the accompanying music is the same Herzog used at the end of his depressing character study Strozek - perhaps echoing the ill construed ideals of society portrayed in Herzog’s earlier film by hinting that Cage’s Bad Lieutenant could well be the antithesis of Strozek..

Although there are fine performances by supporting actors Eva Mendes and Brad Dourif, I cannot help but focus on Cage’s portrayal of Terence McDonagh, his domineering yet eerily charismatic approach to assaulting two old women is twisted humour at its best. This film is the perfect antidote to the mindless Summer blockbusters that are creeping into circulation around this time of year, complete with the drug-fuelled action and sickening violence that thrill seekers expect from your average blockbuster but far superior in terms of direction, Bad Lieutenant is a great example of an independent film-maker beating Hollywood at its own game.

8/10



If you like this you will enjoy these:

The Boondock Saints
Aguirre: The Wrath of God
Wild at Heart
Woyzeck