Review: Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans DVD

STUDIO: First Look | DIRECTOR: Werner Herzog | CAST: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Alvin Xzibit Joiner, Michael Shannon, Fairuza Balk
RELEASE DATE: 4/6/2010 | PRICE: DVD $28.98, Blu-ray $29.98
BONUSES: featurettes, photography book
SPECS: R | 122 min. | Crime | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

For those fearful of ever seeing the name Werner Herzog and movie remake in the same sentence, fear not. Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is not the great German filmmaker’s carbon copy of Abel Ferrara’s bold and scummy 1992 Harvey Keitel-starrer Bad Lieutenant. No, Port of Call New Orleans is essentially Herr Herzog’s taking the idea of a corrupt cop running amok, and placing it in his own wacked-out universe that happens to be the Crescent City, post-Katrina.

Of course, helping matters is the fact Herzog gets an entertainingly wacked-out performance by Nicolas Cage, playing Terence McDonough, an insomniac “good” cop with a bad back and lots of bad habits, including addictions to Vicodin, cocaine, gambling and sex. His latest case involves the death of Senegalese immigrants, and it sends his investigation onto the trail of drug dealers, bookies and politically connected suspects.

At a certain point, Herzog seems to give up on the police procedural aspects of NYPD Blue alumnus William Finkelstein’s script and decides to put more of an accent on Cage’s quirky mannerisms and sordid activities. This approach finds Herzog taking a route that can only be described as weird, with shots taken from an alligator’s point-of-view and trippy close-ups of iguanas.

Reptiles and Cage aside, Port of Call New Orleans also features some nice supporting work from Eva Mendes as Cage’s hooker girlfriend, Fairuza Balk as policewoman and Alvin Xzibit Joiner as a drug kingpin, although Val Kilmer, Michael Shannon and Jennifer Coolidge are underused in other parts.

The independent film may be an enjoyably raunchy riff through the underbelly of law and disorder, but it misses its target of becoming a genuine cult classic of auteur absurdism. A bizarre reversal of the McDonough character’s motivations followed by a surprise ending only add to the chaos, a state in which Herzog and Cage clearly enjoy even if they don’t necessarily thrive in.


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.