Directed by Werner Herzog
Tell me first why Abel Ferarra’s 1992 film “Bad Lieutenant” needed to be remade. It was a very strange but in fact a one-of-a-kind masterpiece; did you know that Martin Scorsese called it one of the best films of the 1990s?, and it was – a brutal, take-no-prisoners account of a New York City cop who does everything bad – drugs, phony arrests, thefts, near-rapes – and yet is somehow good inside.
Now another great filmmaker, Werner Herzog, a man who’s known here for such early films as “Aguirre, The Wrath of God,” and his last one, a documentary called “Encounters at the End of the World,” has remade “Bad Lieutenant,” calling it “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans.” It’s about a, well, a bad Lieutenant, only this time in the New Orleans police force. And he’s as bad as Abel Ferarra’s lieutenant ever was. He’s played by Nicholas Cage, and he’s got a cocaine habit, he deliberately makes bad arrests of a couple on the street, so he can get sex from the girlfriend, his own girlfriend is a hooker (played by Eva Mendes) and did I say he’s also got a bad gambling habit? Well, he does, and he’s into his bookie for $5,000. And that’s just for two weeks’ worth of bets.
And now a drug kingpin is after him and his girl as well. So he brings her to his alcoholic father’s old house outside of town, to stash her where the drug lord can’t find her. Okay, enough about the plot, which I’ve barely hinted at. Who would have thought the Werner Herzog could make a crime film, or that he even wanted to? But he has, and he obviously knows just how to do it. The atmosphere is cloudy and ominous, the events are scary, almost everything is right except for Nicholas Cage as the Lieutenant. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think Cage is a good actor – I’ll make one exception, though, and that’s for “Moonstruck,” but there he had Cher to play off of. I’ve always felt that Cage acted from the outside in. Here he has a bad back, which we know because he lists slightly to that side, except when he forgets to do it.
He also doesn’t know how to hold back and let us in the audience feel his emotions; he’s forever letting us see that he’s frantic, high on drugs, or trying to steal from the evidence room of police headquarters. After a short time, we are more than fed up with his histrionics, which just intrude on the story of the film. “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans” is a film that