Reviews: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans is a damn fun movie. Reminiscent of Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang sans the winking-to-the-camera fourth wall breaking, BL (directed by crazy German Werner Herzog) showcases Nicolas Cage’s talent at portraying bizarre, enthused characters who consistently butt up against the restrictive and at times illogical rules of society.

Cage’s seedy protagonist Terence McDonagh (the titular lieutenant and member of the New Orleans police force) can be summed up in one brief exchange, taking place after bundling up a couple of kids leaving a club:

McDonagh: Where’s the [crack] rock at? C’mon, who’s got the kibble?
Girl: …you want a hit?
McDonagh: Yes.

McDonagh is a sleazy, scummy guy and Cage plays him to perfection. He’s a good cop (in the crime-solving sense) but a relatively terrible man. His vices control him, yes, but he isn’t all bad – he is driven by a sense of duty and demonstrates empathy and sympathy for others. He isn’t an evil archetype – more the chaotic trickster, subverting the rules while simultaneously upholding them. He’s a great character; one you can cheer, laugh and cringe at in the space of five minutes. Cage is supported by an excellent cast: Val Kilmer does a typically Val Kilmer-esque turn as McDonagh’s partner Steve Pruit, Brad Dourif (sort-of-recently featured in the amazing HBO series Deadwood) is great as Terrence’s bookie, Fairuza Balk is solid, Shawn Hatosy is good as co-cop Armand and Eva Mendes… well, she just kind of hangs around looking hot. Cage plays McDonagh with a comical, hard-edged intensity and the supporting players provide a strong backboard for him to bounce off.

BL is very well-paced, the plot gradually playing out with great character-interaction scenes interspersed – despite it’s lengthy runtime, Bad Lieutenant is never boring. The film exhibits a half-serious/half-ridiculous tone that is perfect for the story being told and the characters who exist in its world. The story itself is serviceable – McDonagh attempts to pin down the killers of a poor African family – but the fun, without doubt,  is in Cage’s performance.

If you like your film noir tempered with a heaping helping of insanity, corruption, copious amounts of drugs and lots of foul language then, well, you’ll like Bad Lieutenant.

– Ben Vernel

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