Sunday, 10 April 2011

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

It was an odd thing to do: re-make/ re-imagine/ re-franchise (?) something leftfield as Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. The whole notion still twists my melon but as soon as the action began none of that mattered.

Seeing Nicholas Cage in something so juicy reminded me just how good he is. The ‘interesting’ work on his filmography has recently been far outweighed by the, to put it kindly, ‘not so interesting’. He is brilliantly bonkers in the role of titular Lieutenant, Terence McDonagh. Due to an injury early on, he spends most of the film with a rolling gait that’s part John Wayne, part Richard III. On top of that he has Dirty Harry’s gun. (Said Magnum .44 is stuck, aesthetically-pleasingly, in the front of his pants.) He is a gambler, habitual drug user and worse than the deadly sea snakes swimming around the flooded wastes of post-Katrina New Orleans. He’s the dangerous predator you need to worry about. It’s twisted and unpleasant but, if you like the seamier side of cinema, it’s an awful lot of fun. (Mostly down to Cage’s boisterous demeanour.)

The rest of the cast is one of quality and an eclectic mix. Eva Mendes, Brad Dourif, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jennifer Coolidge, Fairuza Balk seem to relish their chance to be involved in the project. And who can blame them? Val Kilmer lends restrained support and nice guy of hip-hop, Xzibit turns nasty to surprisingly good effect. 

Writer William Finkelstein, veteran of many a US cop show fits together a well-crafted police procedural. Albeit, with a big dollop of insanity on top. Which last (and by no means least) brings me to legendary, mad scientist of film lore, Werner Herzog. The director has made a slick film without sacrificing any of the potency of its subject matter. While admirable for their Herculean efforts, his earlier work such as Aguirre and Fitcarraldo were little more than documenting Klaus Kinski et al being put through a bunch of unimaginable shit. Style was never high on the agenda. Whereas this is a good-looking flick. And an entertaining one to boot. But let’s not get carried away, Herzog hasn’t turned into Brett Ratner. It’s a film with balls that clang. The switch in tone at certain moments is so jarring you can't help but admire Herzog's gall. This one shoots first and asks questions later.


  1. Yeah, I loved it. My favourite film of last year I do believe. So mental...

  2. Werner Herzog stated while making this film that not only had he never seen Bad Lieutenant but that he had never heard of Abel Ferrera.

    Abel Ferrera said that he wanted everyone involved in this film to be killed by a car bomb.

    I can't help but feel that there is a much more interesting film to be had from a meeting between Herzog & Ferrera.