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quietearth [Film Festival 11.16.09] movie review drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Werner Herzog
Writers: William Finkelstein
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: quietearth
Rating: 5 out of 10

[Editor's note: And so begins our Denver Film Festival coverage]

One of the few good things I can say about Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is that it has restored my faith in Nicholas Cage. His drug induced erratic moments and over the top enthusiasm could have made this a winner but the filmmaker is more concerned with plot and narrative than the viewer's enjoyment. Damn, what a shame. This could have been a seriously great character study, or better yet, a black comedy but in the end, even the surreal sequences and the great ending don't save this mediocrity from the scrap heap.

Post-Katrina, Lt. Terence McDonagh (Cage) has a back problem. It's loosely implied that he uses drugs, mainly cocaine, to alleviate the pain, an addiction that started with Doctor prescribed Vikodin. He also likes to gamble and regularly sees a high class hooker (Eva Mendes) who he is also looking after as more of a relationship than the occasional sexual encounter. He moves with a kind of painful lilt. All in all, a simple but promising start.

But here's where the problem lies: story. While I'm eagerly waiting for him to snap or make some huge mess, director Werner Herzog is busy building plot. All things said, sniffing coke and working out the next scheme to cover his last problem never looked so polished but I didn't sign up for this realistic drama, I wanted a moral decline, or better put, some f'd up badassery. While Cage does snap and cut off an old lady's air supply, he's far more reasonable than I think most people in his situation would be; this left the film feeling flat and mundane. How does he behave so reasonably after stealing coke from a couple who just walked out of a club, and having sex with the guys girlfriend right in front of him? I wanted bi-polar insanity, debauchery, disgusting corruption, and I left feeling like I got a comforting pat on the head and an "it's ok kid.” Maybe I'm giving the wrong impression as these two examples were rare but the film rarely paint Terence in a bad light and instead urges the viewer to like the guy. Herzog paints him as a the good, quasi-bad guy, whose problems can easily be overlooked.

Buried in the narrative are some surreal moments including the iguana-cam which centres on Cage through a bulbous fish eye, dogma style, as he smiles insanely and stares back. There are a few other moments which made me wonder if the entire thing wasn't a drug induced dream. Unfortunately it was not and instead, during these periods the well written film belied its true nature which I'm still trying to figure out.

Even though it's not all bad because Cage is clearly at his best and this could certainly mark his comeback, I can't recommend this. In fact I would of given it a 4 but I liked the ending.

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projectcyclops (12 years ago) Reply

Thanks for the review. Shame he doesn't get to indulge in all the horrible things Keitel did in Ferrara's original, but I'm still going to watch this, just for Cage.


Andrew James (12 years ago) Reply

I don't know. I think the movie has loads of fun, wtf moments from Cage. The old lady bit is just one example. All the dialogue he has with the drug dealers and the football player are gold. The inclusion of random lizard shots just add to the bat shit craziness of the whole thing.

I think I just liked the oddity of the mood in the entire film rather than the actual plot.


pat (12 years ago) Reply

shoot him again.
because his soul's still dancing

best line imo.

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