Movie Night: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orléans (2009)

The_Bad_Lieutenant_Port_of_Call_New_Orleans_2009Sunday September 27th 2015, Movie Night: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orléans (Werner Herzog, 2009, fiction, 122 minutes). Door opens at 8pm, film begin at 9pm. Free admission.

Wonder of wonders: The Bad Lieutenant remake is not actually bad at all. German film-maker Werner Herzog has taken Abel Ferrara’s 1992 saga by the scruff of the neck, shifted the action from New York to New Orleans and cast Nicolas Cage in the old Harvey Keitel role, as a morally bankrupt law enforcer. The purists are raging and Ferrara is incensed. If ever a movie arrives hexed with dark voodoo, this movie is it.
And yet Herzog’s devil-may-care insouciance has paid off brilliantly. He does not retread Bad Lieutenant so much as reinvent it. Out goes Ferrara’s dark marinade of blood, semen and Catholic guilt. In comes an espresso of caffeine and amphetamines that, in its way, is just as effective.

Cage gives what is surely his best performance in years as Terence McDonough, a New Orleans cop with a bad back and a faulty moral compass. His shoulders are hitched up around his ears as he picks his way gingerly around New Orleans. In his heightened state he is liable to laugh at just about anything (one street hoodlum goes by the name of “G” and this he finds endlessly amusing). The fact that McDonough is accompanied on some of his errands by sidekick played by puffy, paunchy Val Kilmer only adds to the film’s air of gleeful corruption. One has the sense that, in his sly fashion, Herzog is somehow getting off on the sight of these two Hollywood golden boys run hopelessly to seed.

McDonough is nominally spearheading the investigation of a local crime boss (“Big Fate”), though before long he’s veering dangerously off the map. He busts small-time dealers and pockets their stash and pulls a gun on a respectable old lady at the local care-home, while his gallant attempt to ride to the rescue of his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes) ends in disaster. Finally, he is yanked off the case and demoted to the property room, where the drug seizures are stored. That’s like giving a fox the keys to the chicken coop.

Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant, like the lieutenant himself, is wild, ill-disciplined and never less than mesmerising. Even when it seems to be sticking doggedly to the script, there’s something wonky and dangerous about this film. Herzog takes one of the oldest genre cliches in the book (the Maverick Cop Who Gets Results) and then sees how far he can twist it before it snaps.

This, I suppose, is simply par for the course. Werner Herzog has made good movies and bad movies. But he is not a man to feel pinched by his material, or daunted by an illustrious predecessor. Here he takes Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant and makes it gloriously, shamelessly his own. [The Guardian]

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Doors open at 8pm, film begins at 9pm, free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] squat [dot] net