Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man, “Encounters At the End Of the World”) re-imagines Abel Ferrera’s controversial film “Bad Lieutenant” and changes the location to New Orleans. Instead of Harvey Keitel, this time the bad lieutenant is a maniacal Nicolas Cage.
Set during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the film deals with a police lieutenant who takes and does drugs from the evidence room, has a prostitute girlfriend, and has a gambling addiction amongst other things. Out in the poor section of New Orleans, a family is slaughtered. Cage goes to investigate and it leads him up the ladder to a big deal drug dealer, Big Fate (Xzibit). Along the way he has to deal with a witness who won’t cooperate, well connected shadow figures who abuse Cage’s prostitute girlfriend and extort him, and a bookie who he owes a lot of money too.
Cage is unhinged and wild, in some movies, that’s a liability but not in this one, if anything it’s an asset. Cage is completely off the wall but it fits his character. Herzog’s choice to set the film in New Orleans is an excellent one. It’s not only Katrina that figures in to the story but also New Orleans reputation of corruption. There’s flavor related to the setting with crocs in the middle of the road and Cage sees iguanas in his house on his counter.
The film is highly recommended but because of it’s seediness, it’s not for all tastes. The original was NC-17 and this one is an R rated film but it doesn’t make it easy on the viewer. For those attuned, they will find a lot to appeal to them. The film has a wonderful streak of dark humor and is eminently watchable as the lead character has no boundaries in how he either leads his life or does his job. This keeps the viewer guessing. As crazy as it all sounds, it all ties together very well. Even though the film is seemingly in disarray don’t be fooled Herzog is in complete control.
Bottom Line: Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans” is riveting entertainment which focuses on the seedy side of life. The film oozes with flavor and runs on a maniacally wild performance by Cage. The film’s violence, sex, and drug content may in general may turn some viewers off but those who stick with it will find it a very rewarding experience.
Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is playing at the Milwaukee Film Fest: Winter Edition through March 18th and is coming to DVD and Blu Ray on April 6th. Get your tickets here.