Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans Review

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, 2009
Reviewed by Dan S.
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Written by: William Finklestein
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif, and Xzibit.

Bearing only superficial similarities to the brutal 1992 neo noir Bad Lieutenant, ...Port of Call New Orleans is not so much a character study but the neutral observation of a police detective’s cocaine fueled descent into self destructive behavior. As the film unfolds it becomes clear that this is not a cautionary tale of redemption but a hilarious and suspenseful farce about how much this madman can get away with before it all catches up with him. Legendary German New Wave director Werner Herzog successfully executes his unique style to perfection as he explores the mad and surreal with exciting documentary grit and authenticity. The atmosphere is muggy and suffocating as the hot Louisiana sun constantly blares through shuttered windows in a natural but slightly stylized way. Without the use of any CGI or artificial staging, the camera often hypnotically dwells on natural cloud formations, interesting locals, and live exotic animals, while sporadic drug induced hallucinations are so casually presented they are as real to the viewer as the tripping Lieutenant himself. Conducting a diverse standout score, Mark Isham’s moody jazz evokes classic film noir with a strange acid twist while the frequent use of classic blues recordings add to the New Orleans vibe.

In the film’s most prominent supporting role, a rough looking Eva Mendes shines with a shockingly solid dramatic performance as a sympathetic prostitute. Dourif and Kilmer add interesting color in small character parts, but this is really the Nic Cage show, and everyone else is just props for him to project his misguided affection and profane rage upon. Herzog lets Hollywood’s craziest leading man run wild and the gamble pays off. Much like the veteran director, Cage really doesn’t add any new dimension to his game, but his jittery bug-eyed histrionics have never been better timed and more appropriately staged. His exaggerated mannerisms and outbursts are not distracting over acting - they are the foundation the movie is built around.

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