Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog together is like a dream come true!
Screenplay By: William M. Finkelstein
Directed By: Werner Herzog
After a long day at work I have returned home to write about The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans, and you know what, taking time in between watching the film and writing about it really captures the intent of the film. Sure, The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans is absurd, but taking some time to think about it and crystallize my thoughts, it isn’t absurd just for the sake of absurdity. It is a cop drama, but it isn’t a typical cop drama, it is a Werner Herzog film, but it isn’t a typical Werner Herzog film, well okay, maybe that last part isn’t true but I’m invoking my artistic license to get away with typing it. The point is that The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans can’t and shouldn’t be taken at face value, it is an inventive film, perhaps the freshest cop drama to come around in years.
Before I go any further, I think it is obvious that I need to talk about Nicolas Cage. I have never been a huge Cage fan, but I’ve never actively disliked him either. I recognize the talent the man does possess, but at the same time I see an actor who too often falls into playing the same character over and over again. I can’t say that about his Terence McDonagh in The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans, as a matter of fact if one is looking for a role that highlights the talent Cage does in fact wield, McDonagh would be that role. Cage doesn’t just inhabit McDonagh, he becomes McDonagh so thoroughly that you believe his fall and you believe that little bit of regret and heartache that is always in the corner of his eye. With one shoulder higher than the other and an always changing accent, depending on the severity of drug usage, Cage doesn’t pull us with him into the mouth of madness, he slowly and surely pushes us into a madness that envelops us so completely that we have no choice but to go along. Yet there always exists the aforementioned glint of regret in his eyes, there are moments when we feel for McDonagh, when we know that he wants to be the hero cop, to be the good man, but he can’t overcome his personal demons to make that happen. As the movie ends it remains unclear as to where McDonagh will land, but isn’t that the reality of life, that even the most stalwart of individuals have trouble staying on their path?
It would be easy to proclaim The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans as Cage’s film from beginning to end, but to do so would be to ignore the work of Werner Herzog. I will not deny that I am a huge fan of Herzog and that undeniably my take on The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans draws from the rest of Herzog’s career. But, the truth remains that The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans wouldn’t work if not for the efforts of Herzog. It isn’t a pure satire, nor is it a pure character study or a damnation of human existence, it’s a tiny bundle of everything. The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans is summed up succinctly in its final pre-credit image, that of McDonagh and the man he saved at the beginning of the film sitting together, one laughing, the other in numb silence. How could one not look at the events that have transpired and laugh, and that is why I believe at its core The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans is more than anything a dark comedy, one where Herzog plays with and twists around what we have come to expect from the cop drama. It is odd, it is out there, yet in what I have come to expect from Herzog there is a sanity within all of the oddness and madness, it makes perfect sense when you stop and think about it, and with this dark comedy that is all Herzog wants you to do, stop and think.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans was met with mixed reactions when it was released in theaters in late 2009. To those who didn’t like it or didn’t understand it I don’t have much to offer. Maybe it simply wasn’t your cup of tea, or maybe you were looking for something that wasn’t there, I don’t know. All I can tell you about is the personal reaction I had to The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans, a glaringly positive one. It isn’t Herzog’s best, but it is a fresh and fun take on the cop drama, in the form of a dark comedy questioning life, with a great performance from Cage, so yeah, check it out.