Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - Review

Werner Herzog is, what some may call, a very brave man. Brave for making cutting edge, beautifully shot documentaries as well as having a long history of creating innovative and provocative cinema. However perhaps what was one of the bravest acts he has undertaken in recent years was let - in this critic's mind - Nicolas Cage star in his latest film. Luckily for the delightfully eccentric director, it was a gamble that undoubtedly paid off.

Borrowing ideas from a 1992 film of the same name - the director insists it's not a remake - Bad Lieutenant tells the story of Terence McDonagh as a drug and gambling addled detective in post-Katrina New Orleans investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants. As pressure increases on the detective, the intensities of his addictions grow until he is unable to tell what all is good in the world, or - as you probably would guess from the title - what is indeed, bad.

I have been rather unkind to Nicolas Cage in recent years, and with pieces of unspeakable turd such as Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous, The Knowing, not to mention, The Wicker Man remake, I will never apologise for it. However this critic is always man enough to admit when an actor performs a creditable job, having already redeemed himself marginally with a hilarious appearance in last month's, smash hit, Kick Ass. Cage manages to go one further with, quite possibly, one of the stand out leading performances of the year so far.

Experiencing Cage slowly lose his grip on reality as, the brooding, detective McDonagh was as fascinating, as it was, completely unsettling. His experiences painted a lonely figure as he start hallucinating cold blooded animals and threatening defenceless old women with a Magnum .44. It was strangely comedic in parts, with an almost classic Tarantino tinge to the entire proceedings - his character wouldn't be completely out of place in the likes of Pulp Fiction.

Never mind the shocking revelation that Val Kilmer actually still appears in films (OK, that was a low blow, I loved him in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), the supporting turn from, the gorgeous, Eva Mendes, as Cage's cocaine addicted, prostitute girlfriend, elevated the film from a standard thriller, to a rigorously sexy, lustful film noire.

Perhaps most surprisingly the film managed to create rather tender personal moments for its lead character in the midst of the hard hitting grittier scenes, such as Cage recalling an uplifting memory of his childhood which nearly made the heart warm and forget the painful drug laden reality the protagonist was suffering through.

New Orleans' hopeless backdrop combined superbly with William Finkelstein's beautifully crafted story, conjuring feelings of a modern rendition of Roman Polanski's Chinatown or a far grittier imagining of Scorsese's The Departed. Mark Isham's sophisticated score could only amplified the cinematic magic unfolding on screen.

Final Thoughts
Unpredictable, intense, unsettling and even commanding the ability to raise a cheeky smile or a light hearted chuckle, this is what a real Nicolas Cage performance is all about. Werner Herzog comes out of nowhere to remind audiences the best cinema is often made with a beautifully crafted screenplay, some lush cinematography and most importantly, high quality performances from hard working actors not bland CGI and needless 3D conversions. If that doesn't peak you interest, its got random lizards and break dancing corpses?! One of the best films of the year so far.


See This If You Liked...
Chinatown, The Departed, Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is, hopefully, in most cinemas from Friday 21st May

1 comment:

http://www.anotherfailedfilm.com said...

Yeah this was actually not a horrendous Nicolas Cage movie. I went in expecting a Knowing/Next level of performance and was stunned to find he actually played the part fairly well. I think a decent script probably helped.