Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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I am not a Nicholas Cage fan.
That said, Nicholas Cage has given a few performances that in my mind, were excellent and could only have been done by him. I enjoyed Cage in Face Off because he provided two tremendously good performances as a psycho killer, and as a cop out to stop said killer, but, the movie I really applauded Cage for was his brilliant performance and narration in the film Lord of War – which is probably the greatest film he’s ever done. I had no idea how Cage would fare in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans because I had no idea what to expect.
Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant is neither a sequel, nor a remake to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film, Bad Lieutenant, starring Harvey Keitel, but, based on the title, I had an idea what the plot progression would involve.
Lets recap: 1992’s Bad lieutenant was a film about a broken man who happened to be a cop. LT (Harvey Keitel, within the first 10 minutes of the film, had already snorted grams of coke, driven his old squad car while drunk and when faced with a grisly crime scene – two young women shot twice in the head a piece in their car – the only thing he is interested in when he rallied with the other officers were betting odds. But, this is not before staring at the dead girl’s breasts. The only thing on LT’s mind were his gambling debts. He bets (illegally) on sports - The Dodger vs. Mets series, and strangely enough, the Mets suddenly decide to be a good team and LT ends up owing the local mafia big money. LT continues along his downward spiral until a young nun is violently raped by two young boys and he has to become a good cop again to solve the crime. He suffers a complete mental breakdown and ends up squaring off against Jesus Christ himself in what ends up being a strange tale of Catholic style redemption, that required shocking dialogue and graphic scenes to get movie goers to even notice it. And when I say graphic, I mean graphic. At one point LT masturbates in front of 2 young women in a car he’s pulled over for speeding. Oh yeah, the MPAA pulled out the dreaded NC-17 rating for this one.
Cage’s “Bad Lieutenant” is bad, but he’s just not as naughty as Keitel’s. In fact, I doubt a movie like “Bad Lieutenant” could even be filmed nowadays.
Cage stars as Lieutenant McDonagh, a cop attempting to clean up the violent streets following Hurricane Katrina (hence the title). He injures himself while rescuing a drowning prisoner and ends up addicted to prescription meds as a result. However, he is simultaneously abusing several other drugs, including cocaine and marijuana. Doing his police work degenerates into frisking suspects and stealing their drugs. Fortunately, there is no graphic violence of nuns or scenes as graphically shocking as what Keitel did to the girls in the car, but, there is one diluted scene of depravity in which Cage has his way with a guy’s girlfriend and forces him (at gunpoint) to watch.
There is an attempt at a morally reprehensible scene where Cage literally asphyxiates an elderly woman to get information as to the whereabouts of a suspect and then waves his gun at her and her caretaker, but, for the most part, the film doesn’t seem to want to make waves.
Like LT, McDonagh ends up owing the local maffia and must figure out a way to pay $50K before they decide to harm him or his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes). Things begin to get even more complicated when he ends up demoted to desk duty after complaints from the aformentioned elderly women reach the authorities.
This film was rated-R when it was released in 2009, but besides constant drug use it’s nowhere near as psychologically hard to watch as Ferrara’s film because it takes far fewer chances using questionable, objectionable material to induce cringes. For the most part – the film is even tamer than Training Day. It does not surprise me that this movie was uplifted by critics. Its well shot, well acted and well written. But, there’s nothing to get excited about here which is why there wasn’t enough word of mouth to help it make back its $25 million dollar budget.
Its currently on FIOS On Demand. Give it a look – but, if you can handle it, review Abel Ferrara’s film.
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Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age