Wild Card Tuesdays – The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans



The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans (2009, dir. Werner Herzog)
Starring Nicolas Cage, Val Kilmer, Eva Mendes, Fairuza Balk, Xzibit, Jennifer Coolidge, Brad Dourif, Michael Shannon

At one point in this film, I swear Nicolas Cage was attempting to channel Tony Clifton, the obnoxious lounge singer persona adopted by Andy Kaufman on occasion. This unofficial sequel to the 1992 Bad Lieutenant film is such a bizarre piece of cinema that lives somewhere between classic film noir and surrealist Lynch land. And there really is no other actor who could bring the right level of insanity to this role other than Cage. Even when its impossible for the audience not to react with laughter, Cage is going to keep pushing the boundaries of what we will tolerate.

The film begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Terence McDonagh and his partner, Stevie Pruit find a prisoner in the jail with water up to his neck. Instead of rushing to help they place bets on how long it will take the man to drown. Eventually, McDonagh decides to jump in and help, however the water is to shallow and he injures his back. McDonagh is a scumbag. He has the officer running the evidence room sneaking a cocktail of drugs out for him, he stalks college aged kids leaving nightclubs to confiscate their drugs, he has a prostitute girlfriend he seems in no rush to help get out of the business, and he’s just an all around asshole. A crime scene is discovered where an entire family has been killed execution style. McDonagh begins to uncover that the father was dealing drugs on another man’s territory and attempts to solve the case using methods that pretty much violate every law on the books.

Director Herzog employs some awfully strange choices in making this film. McDonagh’s drug use causes him to have hallucinations that the audience gets to see. During surveillance on a suspect’s house he swears there are two iguanas on the table while the other officers simply give each other confused looks. Later, after a mobster is killed Cage tells the killer to shoot again because “his soul is still dancing”, reflected by a break dancer spinning in the middle of the room. There are other pieces of scenery that keep that wacked out feeling continuing through the film. Actors like Brad Dourif, Michael Shannon, and Fairuza Balk add that twisted atmosphere to every scene they are in.

McDonagh is constantly on the go. There isn’t a single scene where we see him in his home, ready to fall asleep for the night. Instead he is always wheeling and dealing, playing one party against the other in incredibly flimsy ways that you know are going to catch up to him sooner or later. He owes thousands to bookie Dourif and tries dealing drugs out of the evidence room to pay it off, while trying to avoid the suspicion of his superiors. There really isn’t a film comparable to the insanity of this one and if you are a film lover like me, whom finds a sick enjoyment in Nicolas Cage’s frantic nature then  you desperately need to pick this up.

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