Expanded Review: “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans” – 2009. Dir. Werner Herzog

With Nicolas Cage, Eva Mende, Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner, Fairuza Balk, Jennifer Coolidge, Tom Bower, Michael Shannon, Vondie Curtis-Hall with Brad Dourif and Val Kilmer.

“You think fish have dreams?”

I have a love/hate relationship with Nicolas Cage, he leads a duel life in cinema. He’s familiar in mediocre to bad blockbusters: “National Treasure” movies, “Con Air”, “Ghost Rider”, “The Rock” and for roles that many actors wouldn’t dare touch with a ten foot pole: “Leaving Las Vegas”, “8MM”, “Adaptation” and the remarkable “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans”.

We find ourselves in the wake of post hurricane Katrina. Terrence McDonagh (Cage) is a good cop. He talks big, but does the right thing by injuring himself saving a prisoner who is about to drown in a locked jail cell. The result of his compassion leads to his addiction to painkillers that sends his life into the ultimate tailspin of sex, drugs, shakedowns and murder.

McDonagh is in love with a “classy” hooker Frankie (Eva Mendes), begins hallucinations of iguanas, his partner Stevie Pruit (Kilmer) is vaguely in his life, he sends his hooker/girlfriend to go live with his ex-cop, recovering alcoholic father (Bowen) and drug/booze addicted step mom (Coolidge). He begins working for a drug dealer (Xzibit) that he’s investigating. He shakes down two young twenty something’s for drugs outside of night clubs, and end up raping the girl. In a scary scene, Cage even cuts the oxygen off to an elderly woman and holds his magnum to the head of her elderly caretaker.

This film isn’t for novice film goers, or even advanced film goers. Herzog is as an eccentric filmmaker as Nicolas Cage’s performance. He is defiantly an acquired taste. This film drags you to hell, as McDonagh loses control of EVERYTHING. This film is near excellent through the way Herzog experiments with the genre. This film is the prime example of the “experimental” style of filmmaking.

If you are familiar with Abel Ferrera’s 1992 film called “Bad Lieutenant”; don’t be fooled – this film is a remake. Plain and simple. Sure there was the media war between Herzog and Ferrera where Ferrera claimed he was being raped, and Herzog claimed to not even know who Ferrera was. Bullshit. These men are way too smart for that. Oh, and the producer of this film Edward Pressman also produced the 1992 film.

Both “Bad Lieutenant” films deal with a cop, better yet a man, who has fallen so far from grace that he doesn’t even know who he is anymore. They’re both men defeated by addictions: gambling, sex, drugs – struggling with their faith. They have only one guarantee: they won’t reach Heaven.

The ensemble Herzog puts together for this film is grade-fucking-A! Aside from Cage, Mendes, Xzibit and Kilmer Herzog brings in Brad Dourif as Cage’s bookie, Vondie Curtis-Hall as Cage’s commanding officer, Michael Shannon as Cage’s hook-up in the evidence room, Fairuza Balk as Cage’s one time fling traffic cop.

This film makes you feel like you are smoking crack. It doesn’t stop for one second. It haunts you, scares you, and makes you laugh and even smile. All of our emotions are affected by every second of this film. There is an extremely touching and heartwarming moment when Cage brings Mendes to the shack in his father’s back yard where he used to hunt for treasure as a kid, and tells her a story from his childhood.

The imagery of the still is astounding.

The film takes us from one unbelievable event to another, its mindboggling watching Cage scurry from one scene to another, and you are just waiting for him to explode. The screenplay written by veteran “NYPD Blue”, “LA Law” writer/producer William M. Finkelstein (who turns a great performance as Dave Jacobs, the guy chasing after Cage for money) delivers an excellent script upon which Herzog and Cage thrive.

What keeps this film from me giving it a 10 is the ending. As the film wraps up, you find yourself about to hit yourself on the forehead and say, “give me a break!” – but wait, it’s not over yet. If the film would have ended two scenes before it’s closing, I would have given it a 10. Viewer be advised, I’m not really sure if this film is for you.

Bottom line Werner Herzog is a great, great filmmaker and Nicholas Cage gives a career best performance.

Review: 9.5/10

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

2 thoughts on “Expanded Review: “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans” – 2009. Dir. Werner Herzog”

  1. As a big Herzog fan and an admirer of the original Bad Lieutenant, I’ve been meaning to watch this since it came out. After your excellent review, i’m putting it on the top of my must-see list.

    “This film drags you to hell” – Herzog may be the best at this! If you haven’t already seen Stroszek (1977) – check it out I suspect you may like it.


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