‘Bad Lieutenant’ just crazy enough to work

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Tuesday, November 24, 2009 6:16pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

By all objective standards and practices, “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is not a successful movie: It’s wild and uneven and puzzling.

Now that we have the objectives standards out of the way, can we talk about how crazy-great this movie is?

Directed by Werner (“Grizzly Man”) Herzog and starring Nicolas Cage — two of the more outlandish personalities in current cinema — “Bad Lieutenant” is, to quote a different Cage performance, rockin’ good news.

There was a 1992 film, directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Harvey Keitel, called “Bad Lieutenant.” There’s not much connection between the two pictures.

This one begins with cocky N’awlins cop Terry McDonagh (Cage) being injured in a Katrina-related accident. Months later, hopped up on painkillers and sleazily creative when it comes to making evidence disappear, McDonagh is assigned to a multiple homicide.

The film never really gets too deeply into the detail of this killing; it’s much more focused on Terry’s deteriorating mental and physical state. He’s trying to care for his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes), in serious hock to his bookie (Brad Dourif), and worried about his father (Tom Bower) and dad’s boozy wife (Jennifer Coolidge).

Then Terry seriously irritates a mob-connected politico, and tries to get in with a local crime kingpin (Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner). This is self-destructive behavior of a truly expert sort, and Terry’s odds of survival get smaller as the movie goes on.

Thanks to Herzog’s eye for swampy detail and Cage’s commitment to strung-out wackiness, the movie just buzzes right along. Please understand: If your idea of a good cop show is a sober, well-made episode of “Law &Order” or “CSI,” this movie is not for you.

But if you like to walk on the wild side … come on over. Nicolas Cage, whose bottle-rocket skills are often left unlit in his more conventional parts, gets to catch fire here. Hunched with pain and glassy-eyed with substance overload, his performance would not be out of place in a silent German Expressionist movie from the 1920s, and his dialogue delivery spills out according to his own internal drum kit.

I don’t know why Val Kilmer’s in the movie (as Cage’s partner), or why everything happens the way it does. But this picture’s got juice and nerve. And I never knew quite what was coming in the next moment, which is a rare feeling at the movies these days.

“The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” * * *

Nicolas Cage goes off the hook for his role as a corrupt, drug-addicted New Orleans cop, whose odds of surviving the many hurdles placed in his way get smaller as the film goes on. Directed by Werner Herzog with an eye for swampy detail, this wild and weird movie won’t please fans of well-made police stories — but it’s got nerve.

Rated: R for violence, language, nudity

Showing: Metro, Uptown

Talk to us

More in Life

Caption: A mom’s unpaid labor to her house each week: $300.
My house was clean three weeks ago. Sorry you missed it

Sticker-shock quotes from housecleaning businesses inform a mom just what her labor is worth.

Fine-tune your coping skills for when life gets difficult

Here are four ways to develop healthy ways to deal with the stress that inevitably comes our way.

Krakow’s main square offers a vibrant slice of modern Polish life — and it’s just steps away from a cheap and cheerful milk bar meal.
Poland’s milk bars dish up memories and cheap eats

You can eat well there for just $5, making them perhaps the best legacy of the communist era.

Trainline charges a $43 change fee after train was canceled

When Neale Gonsalves’ train trip from Stockport, England, to London is canceled, he rebooks on another train. But Trainline, his ticket agency, charges him a $43 ticket change fee. Is that allowed?

Ays Garcia in Village Theatre's production of "Cinderella," which closes Jan. 29 in Everett. (Angela Sterling)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Village Theatre’s production of “Cinderella” closes Jan. 29 in Everett.

not for print
Fruit tree season is upon us. Choose wisely

Unlike growing veggies, fruit trees are a long-term investment, so make sure you start out on the right foot.

A snapping sound in her calf muscle sent her to urgent care. What happened next, involved a lot of sitting. (Jennifer Bardsley)
This injury changed me from a ‘human-doing’ to a ‘human-being’

A painful torn calf muscle doesn’t require surgery — just a LOT of rest. So pass the Advil and the TV remote.

The GPP for next Tuesday, January 24th is Galanthus elwesii, commonly called giant snowdrop, and the image credit goes to Richie Steffen.
Great Plant Pick: Giant snowdrops

This bulb flowers early — as in right now. It also rewards gardeners with a honey-like fragrance.

How do we teach our children to be mindful consumers?

A few ground rules, on screen time especially, will help adults raise kids with the capacity to amuse themselves.

Many of those who fought for Irish independence were held or executed in Kilmainham Gaol.
These are a few of Rick Steves’ favorite things to do in Dublin

Visiting Trinity College, Kilmainham Gaol and more in Ireland’s capital city.

With a hurricane on the way, are these tickets now worthless?

Char Collins has to cancel flights from Minneapolis to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, after a hurricane threatens her destination wedding. Will she have to throw away her airline tickets, or can she reuse them?

The 2023 Cadillac XT4 five-passenger compact luxury SUV is available in three different trim levels.
2023 Cadillac XT4 is handsome, roomy and agreeable on the road

The compact luxury SUV has two new paint colors and adds some driver assistance features as standard.