Nicolas Cage is officially off of my shitlist because Werner Herzog's The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a wildly outrageous and schizo-funny black comedy featuring the 45-year old actor, who has wallowed around in a mess of bad films for the better part of this decade, gives his best performance since Spike Jonze's Adaptation ('02).
As the bad cop with a serious drug and gambling addiction, Cage is pure energy as he slips into this raging psychopath and channels all of this bad boy charisma and lets loose as if to atone for all of his straight-laced, ho-hum, paycheck action roles. As his character, Terrence McDonagh, spirals into this hole of debts, drug-smuggling and unsolved homicides, it's not Herzog's intention to bring on anxiety or fear -- in fact, it tends to bring out the best in McDonagh and the film, resulting in a ironic, comedic and surreal tone.
Val Kilmer shows up from time-to-time as a bad-mouthed partner, but he's limited both in screen-time and relevancy, although strangely I wanted more of him. Eva Mendes, reuniting with Cage after Ghost Rider, plays the "girlfriend" prostitute with a drug-itch problem herself.
The whole package, set in post-Katrina New Orleans (think fall of '05) is a wink-wink, drug-induced coma of bad deeds and intentions with an ugly direct-to-video sheen. There are imaginary iguanas, dancing souls, oxygen-gasping grandmas with revolvers pressed to their foreheads -- this thing should become a big 2 am, pass-the-joint cult classic.
Herzog, a renowned filmmaker and documentarian, most known for his 70's/80's masterpieces Aguirre: The Wrath of God ('72), Nosferatu ('79) and Fitzcarraldo ('82) is operating on a level of psychological hell and hysteria unseen even in the crazed presence of Klaus Kinski.
The Bad Lieutenant isn't one of his best works, but it's certainly more lively and inspired than Rescue Dawn ('07) in a ugly, provoking, auteuristic kind of way. It's a ballsy, gutsy, cuckoo niche film that seems to have brought Nicolas Cage back from the realm of the dead. Not unlike Alex Proyas' Knowing, here is a crazy Cage film that works.