Monday 26 October 2009

Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

Year: 2009
Director: Werner Herzog
Screenplay: William M. Finkelstein
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Val Kilmar, Brad Dourif, Eva Mendes,

Plot Synopsis is here

Its been about three days since I watched Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and while I usually write (or at least start) my reviews the day I watch the movie, I've been so busy (London Expo and drinking but mostly the expo) that I haven't been able to sit down with my laptop and spew my opinion on the net. With this said however, it allowed me to gather my thoughts a little bit and that my fellow readers is a good thing.

There's been a lot of talk about this remake on the tinterwebz, and while not all of it's been bad, it was hard to read anything good. The originals director Ferrara has been particularly vicious, being quoted that he wishes all people making remakes should die in the same streetcar. A little harsh but considering the amount of limp retreads out there, I can see why he's angry.

Fortunately in my opinion, Port of Call New Orleans is no limp retread. Despite drawing on aspects of the original film Herzog has truly made it his own. Turning the film from a gritty and grimy police thriller to a riotously funny parody of televised cop drama. The German director toys with material that we've grown extremely accustomed to. The films story is nothing that The Shield or similar series couldn't knock out in 15 minutes, however, Herzog decides to fuel the movie with such outlandish humor and hallucinogenic imagery the film becomes hypnotic. It also help that the film features the best Nic Cage performance since 2002's Adaptation. His portrayal of corrupt cop Terence is a wild, strung out one full of visual tics and OTT madness that brings about his earlier roles that made him so watchable in the first place.

But this energy extends though all the cast in the film. Val Kilmar has limited screen time but reminds us that he still a criminally underused actor. Brad Dourif makes up for H2 sins with a great turn as Terrence's bookie. Jennifer Coolidge is allowed to show her range as a drunken step-mother, while Fairuza Balk reminds us that she can make trashy feel incredibly sexy in two short scenes. One of the films casting revelations however is that of Xzibit who plays high end gangster Big Fate. While I usually find many rappers in roles a chore to sit through Xzibit shows he may have potential after the music stops. There's even a passable performance from Eva Mendes!

But this is what working with a man like Herzog does, and the film pops with a driven dynamism that many cop dramas have been missing. It stands shoulders above other drab offerings with it's colourful offbeat tone and darkly comic insight into common Herzog themes. As the weight of the case and issues begin to stack on the films lead character, the film only becomes more engaging as Herzog love for the obsessive becomes more clear and apparent. It's a shame that the films ending falters slightly with the film going on a tad too long for it's own good. However, it's circular conclusion and lack of a clear Hollywood style redemption is not only welcoming change but a neat comment on the idea on the gray area between good and bad.

Port of Call: New Orleans' break-dancing souls and singing iguanas may not impress everyone, but it's offbeat tone and subverted insight into an overworked genre could make this a cult classic for years to come.

Hear more talk about this movie at geekplanetonline