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.


If you like this you will enjoy these:

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

Wednesday 5 May 2010

New Release - Hot Tub Time Machine

Hats off to the person who coined the phrase Hot Tub Time Machine, what a brilliant name for a film! Its just a shame that the concept failed to live up to expectations and left me feeling like I needed my own hot tub time machine so that I could travel back in time and avoid ever watching the movie.

When a disgruntled middle aged man attempts to commit suicide, it is down to  his old friends (through association rather than choice) Adam and Nick, played by John Cusack and Craig Robinson respectively, to restore his faith in humanity with a trip to a ski resort from their teenage years. Joined by Adam’s nephew Jacob, it is not long before the foursome take a ride in a time bending hot tub and wind up twenty years earlier when the ski slope was in its heyday - cue sexy young ladies in 80s gear and an endless stream of crude, unfunny jokes.

This is basically Back to the Future crossed with The Hangover -as the marketing team behind the film have kindly pointed out - but what they fail to mention is that while it may sound brilliant on paper, the amalgamation of the two ideas falls flat as both plot lines meander aimlessly from one dull situation to the next. There are a number of moments throughout where Hot Tub Time Machine goes beyond being a homage to its influences and becomes a blatant rip off, failing miserably to replicate the choicest moments from Back to the Future and instead just ruining the credibility of the film.

I sincerely hope that unlike most comedies the actors were not required to ad lib their own lines, as while this works well with comedians such as Steve Carrel and Will Ferrell, Cusack and co. could not cause a single smile with their laboured gags. If however, the actors stuck rigorously to their lines, then the scriptwriters would benefit enormously from a visit to their local comedy club to gain some fresh ideas, as the jokes could have easily been written by an immature teenager.

For me, the star of the whole film was Crispin Glover, whose mere inclusion is bound to incite comparisons to everyone’s favourite time travel movie involving a flux capacitor. While his screen time is limited, the running gag revolving around the loss of his limb is very amusing, a clear cut above the rest of the humour, but serves only to frustrate the audience as they realise that Hot Tub Time Machine had the potential to be something very special.

Hot Tub Time Machine is a missed opportunity, and while it is not the worst of comedies, the only reason it stands out from a crowded genre is its daft title and a handful of stolen ideas. By cleverly fooling the general public with a brilliant marketing campaign, Hot Tub Time Machine is bound to fair reasonably well at the box office but you would do well to spend your money on something far more enjoyable - go and buy Back To The Future, it's much cooler to travel through time in a Delorean.


If you liked this film you will enjoy these:

Back To The Future
The Hangover