Nicolas Cage is a man who loves to act. He loves to act so much that he'll sign up for anything that has been put to writing, generally without reading it first. This utter enthusiasm to be on the screen has resulted in such disasters as Bangkok Dangerous, Ghost Rider and The Wicker Man. But for every ten movies he does, he manages to pick a project that reminds us why he is an Oscar-winning actor. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is one of those movies.
Apparently inspired by the 1992 Harvey Keitel movie Bad Lieutenant, which featured Keitel delivering a head-turning performance as a drugged-up, sex-addicted loser of a policeman who bumbles around his city preying on both the corrupt and the innocent, Port of Call New Orleans is its own animal. While there are similarities - Cage's character, Terence McDonagh, is high most of the time, will have sex with just about anything that walks and is willing to go to any length to get what he wants - Port of Call New Orleans is by no means a remake. The plot, setting and characters are entirely different - oh, and did I mention that this one actually has a plot?
Regardless, Port of Call New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn), is a force to be reckoned with. Superbly acted, craftily directed and mesmerizingly entertaining, the movie is rarely pleasant and yet impossible not to watch. It isn't for audiences looking for a good old cop movie, but it isn't as off-putting as the other Bad Lieutenant, either (Cage's character actually has some redeeming qualities). Herzog has really taken his gloves off here, submersing his cameras and skills in the sludge of post-Katrina New Orleans. There's rarely a scene where something bad isn't happening, but just when you expect things to unravel completely, the pieces start clicking and the film continues firing on all cylinders.
As much as Herzog brings to the table, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is Nicolas Cage's movie. Cage should only play characters on drugs, as he excels when allowed to be fully unrestrained. Cage absolutely destroys those around him, delivering a hilarious, serious, disturbing, f**ked up and dominating performance. This is Cage's best performance since Adaptation, if not Leaving Las Vegas. Another Oscar nomination is in this man's future.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a shockingly entertaining, gritty and enjoyable cop drama. Screenwriter William M. Finkelstein deserves a lot of credit, as does Herzog, but Cage is unbelievably incredible. The movie isn't for everyone, but for the right audiences, it is one of the best movies of 2009.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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