It makes a lot of sense that Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog should collaborate. Both men have a diverse cinematic portfolio that contain several real gems alongside many more absurd and questionable entries. However dubious their past work may have occasionally been, there is no denying that both men are courageous in their art and their delivery. Herzog and Cage don’t seem to mind straying from the path if it means occasionally hitting the nail right on the head. I recently wrote and completed my M.Sc. thesis on Herzog’s documentary work. I have always admired his ferocity and vision. As for Cage, I find him so compelling in the likes of Leaving Las Vegas and Joe that I don’t mind him making the occasional atrocity such as Knowing. Perhaps Cage, in all his brilliance and ridiculousness, is seeking his own ecstatic truth. Whatever the case, both men came together to make Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. The results are pleasing, with Cage on great form but bringing just the right amount of bonkers. There are enough Herzogian sequences to entertain fans of the director. Combining Cage’s portrayal of a man entering madness, through his gruelling job and drug dependency, with surreal reptilian-themed dream-like movements makes this a harmonious dual creation between both director and actor. Herzog famously claims to have never seen Abel Ferrara’s original Bad Lieutenant. Whether he has or has not, the film’s don’t share much.
Both films’ police detectives take advantage of their professional position in order to fuel their habit. They both have partners with whom they indulge in their drug taking with. They both cheat on their partners through seedy and perverted satisfactions and both men are trying to find the man guilty of a gruesome crime. Other than these facts within the narrative, both films have different intention, style and purpose. Ferrara’s is a film about damnation and walks down a road of madness and religion. Herzog’s is just mad. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, detective Terence McDonagh is promoted to lieutenant. He is a man who cares about his job. He cares about justice and he cares about doing the right thing. Beneath his many flawes and weaknesses he is a good man. He is also a man in great pain, brought on by his drug addiction. Cage captures McDonagh’s mental and physical suffering – and there is a chance that one represents the other. There is also comedy here which appears often and unexpectedly. Eva Mendes plays Frankie, a prostitute and also McDonagh’s girlfriend. She proves the most apt at handling Herzog and screenwriter William M. Finkelstein’s bizarre mix of comedy and tragedy. The cast are great. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans is many things. At times it’s great. Some moments are wonderfully weird and occasionally it feels disjointed and odd. The film has more heart and soul than Ferrara’s original but it’s somehow not as marvellous. Nevertheless it is amusing and enthralling, moving at an intensive pace that reflects the passion of both Cage and Herzog. This is the result of two great controversial artists coming together. This is a collaborative effort that will most likely unsettle many but it’s more than good enough for me.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.