It’s every citizen’s worst fear: a cop who willingly and continuously breaks the law; and even worse, a cop who gets away with it. Yet somehow, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is still an enjoyable watch.
Directed by Werner Herzog, Bad Lieutenant tells the story of Terence (Nicholas Cage), a rogue detective who is equally as devoted to his job as he is to scoring illegal drugs. Taking place in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the film follows Terence as he tries to find the drug dealing killer of a low-income family, all the while smoking and howling like a mad man.
Appearing high and/or delusional in every scene, Terence wields his gun, flashes his badge, and threatens everyone around him to get what he wants. And most of the time what he wants is drugs. He steals drugs from young couples at nightclubs, makes drug deals with the criminals he is supposed to be arresting, smokes drugs in front of just about anyone, and even carries around a lucky crack pipe.
Cage does a convincing job as the out-of-his-mind lieutenant, acting as over-the-top as such a character requires. However, some motivation does seem a little random. At times his bursts of anger seem to come from nowhere at all and relate to absolutely nothing. His body language feels a little forced – a permanent hunchback due to a back injury (the primary cause of his needing the drugs). Still, when you’re that insane, you’re bound to be a little melodramatic.
The film also stars Eva Mendes, who plays Terence’s prostitute girlfriend named Frankie. She plays her part well, although you can’t help but wonder how the two of them met (you don’t find out).
Another major player in Bad Lieutenant is the reptile. Yes, you read that right. Herzog needed a way to play with the fact that Terence is always high. And, he found an effective one. With iguanas and alligators showing up at various crime scenes and police offices, the audience is made to feel as if they are hallucinating along with Terence.
One of the criminals that Terence is after is played by ride-pimping rapper Xzibit. And surprisingly, when the cornrows and baggy jeans are gone, he cleans up pretty nice. Xzibit even plays his character well, appearing both shocked and amused as the wild Terence snorts coke along with him.
Everyone involved in Bad Lieutenant has made it clear that this is not a re-make of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 flick, called, well, Bad Lieutenant. Still, many are bound to be confused by the title match, along with the loose plot similarity of a crazy, drug-addicted detective.
So let’s recap. Bad Lieutenant is insane. It’s as insane as Terence trying to function on three hits of coke and two hours of sleep. Sound intriguing? Well, it is. If a movie’s main goal is to entertain, then Bad Lieutenant gets an A+. It’s got some action, it’s humorous, and it’s just freaky (define that word how you wish) enough to keep audiences engaged. Still, don’t be alarmed if you come out of it a little confused. Or, maybe a little high…not high on drugs, though. Drugs are bad…or maybe badass. You decide.
Bad Lieutenant (Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant, that is) opens in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal on Nov. 20.