TELLURIDE FILM FEST

Telluride 2009 Review: Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant

by
September 7, 2009

Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant

Not to be confused with Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant from 1992, this newest film from German director Werner Herzog, one of two he premiered at Telluride, is not a remake. Instead, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is sort of a re-imaging, a maniacal, over-the-top tale about a Police Lieutenant from New Orleans who gets wrapped up in way too many drugs. Let me be frank - I underestimated Herzog, as I was expecting this to be utter trash, but it was almost the complete opposite. It was impressively well-made and actually quite amusing to watch, thanks to Nicolas Cage's fully overboard and wacko performance.

The actual story in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a little bit muddled. Essentially, Detective Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) hurts his back and must take painkillers, which opens the floodgates for him to eventually dive into the world of crack, cocaine, and marijuana (consumed in copious amounts). It begins with the murder of five African immigrants and the ensuing investigation, which leads him on an adventure through the New Orleans drug underworld. The story, considering it's not the strongest aspect of this, isn't anything I really cared that much about, but that didn't hurt my enjoyment of the actual film itself.

What makes this film so great, or at least so damn entertaining, is Cage's insane performance. His snappy responses to anything said to him, his doesn't-take-shit-from-anyone attitude, and his tendency to steal drugs from anyone and everywhere, is just hilarious to watch. And I'm not talking about it being so funny because it's bad, Cage is actually playing it for laughs. If you don't get that as the audience seeing this, you're definitely missing out on the entire point of it. Bad Lieutenant is one of those B-movies that you watch with a group of friends who are high or drunk, as it's not cinematic brilliance, but it is pretty damn good fun.

Although I've been praising this, there are some negative parts. The opening and ending really don't play well (and were coincidentally added by Herzog himself, as they weren't in William M. Finkelstein's script). There were also some "experimental" scenes where Herzog included extreme close-up shots of alligators and iguanas just for the hell of it, not for any sane reason. Herzog is sometimes crazy and this is definitely a film made at the height of his madness, but it's still considerably well-made and entertaining for the most part.

Telluride Rating: 7 out of 10

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  • Cody
    I liked Herzog after seeing Rescue dawn, I dont understand why I never heard anything whatsoever about that movie. Freakin loved that movie. But as for this I just cant stand nic cage, Im sorry I have no reason for it I just cant stand the guy.
  • brusche
    nic cage isn't an actor. nic cage just plays nic cage everytime. he's a joke, without a punchline.
  • AC
    i actually like nic cage, back in the 90's he was a legit action star. to this day i still enjoy watching the rock, face/off, gone in 60 seconds, etc..
  • DiR3ct
    Bloody remakes.
  • Stevo
    I feel like hating Nic Cage is one of those trendy things to do, but the sad fact is he is a pretty damn good actor in a ton of films. Go to IMDB and look at his record. He has done a lot of great stuff. He is incredibly versatile. Adaptation is one of the best indy dramodies made in recent history. The Rock is one of the coolest goofy action films I have ever scene. Most people who bad mouth Nic Cage are the people who pretend to know about movies and want to act smug about. Movies are first about art and entertainment. People need to get over themselves and enjoy it.
  • Cody
    I know a shitload about movies..I just cant stand nic cage.
  • trapped in a nicolas cage
    #5 Stevo in a way your right, i went onto IMDb to gather a list of shitolas cage movies but wham, his early stuff is pretty damn good some classic movies (rumble fish, raising arizona), then mid career some pretty damn fun action movies no brainer fast food films (the rock/con air)...but then what the fuck happened really not a fan of Next, The Weather Man, Bangkok Dangerous etc etc post 2003 what a load of poo. #6 Cody, why so defensive, you obviously dont know a shitload about movies if the Herzog film you chose to mention was Rescue Dawn, not seen his master piece Fitzcarraldo! Rock on Herzog he da man
  • Trey
    He did Rescue down??... I down to see this
  • Xerxex
    Hating Nic Vage is stupid, the guy dosen't need to worry about acting, he's rich as fuck, so he chooses what he wants and just does whatever, I think all he needs is one good chance to bring back is old school acting chops and wow us all oever again.
  • lego
    what xerxex said. and fire his agent
  • DoomCanoe
    Nicolas Cage sucks fucking nuts. sure he has been in some good movies but that doesn't mean he was any good in those movies. the man has no skill or talent and #5 if hating terrible actors is trendy then sign me up. And you give him props for Adaptation? all he did was get fat... that doesn't take any talent Shit
  • pipo
    I love Werner, must watch this!
  • Xerxex
    Nic Vage? Oever? wow. at least people get the gist of it...
  • Clover
    NO....I have allways despised Cage . Since Valley Girl....his one and only performance in front of the camera that can actually receive any merit of any kind. With out a doubt, the WORST OF ALL TIME. THanks for nothing Uncle Francis!!!!
  • David Banner
    Herzogs trailers for his last films are what bring them all down before they have been set up in the theaters: they just suck. So this is a funny version of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant? Ferrara's version might be concidered funny, in a way, but is quite bleak and heart breaking seeing a man on his downward spiral with the last door being death.
  • Ben
    Yeah I think the internet finds it trendy to hate people. Up until Basterds, the whole net was all over Tarantino's case. Just go on the IMDb boards, so much hatred! Cage suffers from the same thing, and whilst he has done some decent movies the last 5 years, people still hate him. Hopefully this is the great movie is has potential to be and people get off his case. Remember, he has an Oscar for a reason.
  • SuicidalOptimist
    I always like Nic Cage, and I think he is a really good actor. I loved him in Kiss of Death, The Rock, Face/Off, Raising Arizona and Matchstick Men. He only made some really bad decisions in past years. ("Nooo, not the bees! Aaah, they're in my eyeeees!!!") Tho, I wouldn't blame that solely on him. Doesn't every actor have an agent? And shouldn't that agent tell you which roles are good for you, and which are clearly terrible? Anyhow, he is a made man. He doesn't have to worry about money or his career anymore. He established his rank in Hollywood a long time ago. I will give every movie he's in a chance. And hopefully with this one he is back on the right track. =)
  • canthinkofaname
    had the wonderful opportunity to see this movie at a film festival while vacationing. I walked out less than half way through this terrible film. Cage ruined the movie by his presence alone, he only has one genre of acting which is crappy acting. Dont waste your money on this one. Four thumbs down.

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