The hoi polloi out there should be thanking G that a few of us Kibitzers were unfortunate enough to burn our retinas on Werner Herzog’s new movie, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, before it gets released on Friday, Nov. 20th. You may be thinking that’s a little harsh, so in all fairness I’ll divulge what the people around me said as well. In her excitement for the movie to be over the girl next to me said, “Oh my God. Thank God!” Someone else near me said, “Wow, that was soooo bad.” As I was walking out some guy wondered out loud to no one in particular that if he were a movie critic where would he begin? After quickly giving my taxi driver a brief synopsis he accurately concluded that it was a waste of time. Finally, I told a friend of mine that I saw Bad Lieutenant tonight and she said, “Haven’t heard of it…” In case you fall in that last category and the movie title Bad Lieutenant doesn’t ring any bells for you (not even the 1992 original) then here is the trailer…
The movie takes place in New Orleans and centers around Nicholas Cage’s character Terence McDonagh. Like oh-so-many other movies that use New Orleans as it’s backdrop it begins with hurricane Katrina. Cage and his never addressed friend and/or partner Stevie Pruit, played by Val Kilmer, are aimlessly wondering around the police station when they come across the only remaining inmate, who is locked up in a cell almost full of flooding water and also happens to have a broken leg. After a half-hearted attempt by Kilmer’s character to persuade Cage not to jump five to ten feet down into the five plus feet of water, Cage’s crazy character decides to do it anyway. It fades to black but subsequent scenes inform us that cage suffered from sort of non-detailed serious back injury. Cage’s injury is so severe that he will suffer from extreme back pain the rest of his life. So just so we’re clear, Cage jumps from the low dive into the deep end of the pool, breaks (?) his back, but is still able to save an inmate with a broken leg. It truly is thought provoking.
Six months go by and Cage is now a full blown drug addict. He also has this weird shoulder slouch and sometimes just looks uncomfortable in his own skin. Cage’s police work begins when his captain begrudgingly allows Cage to work a multiple homicide case. This holds Cage’s attention for a while before he slips further into his vices – crack, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, sex, and gambling. Surprisingly, not much of an alcoholic. This decent was also marked by Cage’s accent coming into full swing. It was a very odd movie-watching experience. First half no accent, second half he’s got molasses pouring out of his mouth.
Cage becomes so wrapped up with a drug dealing gang (run by Xzibit), the mafia, and his booky, that his street life begins to interfere (literally and figuratively) with his work. At one point Cage’s captain is forced to take Cage, “his best lieutenant,” off the case. It was an odd change of heart that was never explained.
Suddenly, Cage’s luck turns around and everything rights itself. Just like that. No joke, all in the same scene. It should end there but it drags on for maybe five more minutes where Cage gets promoted to Captain and has a nice sober family moment. Of course it doesn’t end there though because why would it? The real shocker is that Cage hasn’t changed (seriously who saw that coming) and he really is just a miserable person. I could go on but I just don’t want to anymore.
In case the plot isn’t enough to drive someone into their own bender this movie is actually made worse by the music, prolonged shots of animals, and the casting. The music is primarily a solo trumpet that would be better suited for a rainy detective movie set in the 1920s. The shots of animals you ask? It seems as though occasionally Werner Herzog forgets what he’s doing and goes to his roots of filming wildlife. Now the casting… In my opinion Nicholas Cage can play one crazy person. However, he does this by flailing his body around and flapping his arms a lot. With a spine injury Cage is less animated and therefore less crazy. Someone who could act crazy without throwing themselves around would have been better suited for this role.
I really could go on and tear this movie to pieces but I’m going to stop. What I would have liked to have seen is the characters actual decent into drugs and addiction. Some sort of character development that provides the audience with a sense of time and change. The previews point out that Cage’s character was once a good cop but there is no indication of that during the movie.
If you still don’t believe me that this movie is terrible, then believe the production company. Of all the movies opening on the 20th of November, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is the only one scheduled with a DVD release date. If you still want to see this movie it can be yours on February 23rd 2010.
Kibitzers gives Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans a measley Three out of Ten.