Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call — New Orleans

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bad lieutenant

Nic Cage and Eva Mendes in a happier moment.

There are two things that need to stop right here and now. Giving a movie a title that has already been used. Bad Lieutenant is a Harvey Keitel picture.

Now, the first time this really got to me was the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence comedy Bad Boys. It was a great Sean Penn flick years earlier. I don’t care if it’s a movie title from 1943, but if it’s a film that was from the last 25 years – no. And adding the idiotic “Port of Call – New Orleans” doesn’t make it better, but worse.

Second, we need everyone to stop praising Werner Herzog so much. Yes, he’s a directing genius. I admit that, but he has some stinkers, and this is one of them. It’s a shame, too. The first half is an interesting movie. Nicolas Cage seems perfectly cast as a cop that starts dabbling in drugs, women, gambling, and basically anything illegal. We have some sympathy for him early on, because he risked his life to save a prison from a flood that would’ve surely killed him. He ruined some expensive clothes and gave himself a permanent back injury. This caused him to go all Rush Limbaugh with the vicodin. When Cage starts getting into coke…that gets him raiding the police storage room.

A drug kingpin named Big Fate is played well by Xzibit, the rapper who had that show on MTV fixing up cars. I just think he should’ve been a tad more intimidating.

Eva Mendes does a fine job playing the prostitute girlfriend, and it was nice seeing Val Kilmer, although is role was rather small.

The more Cage gets into his addictions, the crazier he gets…and the more the movie veers out of control as well.

Usually when Internal Affairs pops up in a cop movie, I wonder how realistic it actually is. The cops always seem to hate them so much, but from the stories I read in the papers…they often seem to side with their cops.

Cage can certainly chew the scenery when he’s a crazed character. I’m one of the few critics that thought he was fun in Kiss of Death. And he could be here, if there was a better script. Maybe keeping the premise more about his moral compass turning to crap the deeper he gets with his demons. Instead it just does what most cop movies do in Hollywood – they become completely unrealistic (this caused a big long argument between me and Roger Ebert when he declared Crash his favorite movie of the year).

It’s a joy watching Cage act (when he chooses to)…with the facial grimaces from his back pain and manic energy. Yet when I see him raping a woman he’s pulled over, while her boyfriend is watching and running away – while firing a gun into the air like a cowboy – at that point I just hated the film.

It’s a shame, because I’m thinking about all these scenes that were interesting. The iguana that pops up in various scenes – whether they’re real or a bad drug trip Cage is on – worked well. They were like lost scenes from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

One of my biggest pet peeves in films is when I can’t believe the logic and motivation behind what the characters are doing. This movie has that in spades.

It gets bonus points for having Jennifer Coolidge and Brad Dourif. You might know him as the voice of Chucky. I liked him in his film debut as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

This movie is completely cuckoo, and that’s a shame. I’ll be looking forward to the next Herzog documentary, but not his next feature. I don’t trust him working with a regular film narrative.

This gets a D+.