April 28, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Today's movie: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the latest by legendary German New Wave filmmaker Werner Herzog; and as regulars know, I'm in the long-term process these days of trying to watch Herzog's entire oeuvre (see for example my previous reviews of his Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, The Wrath of God).

The reality: Um...hmm. I don't know, perhaps it's that I just recently watched Abe Ferrara's original mindblowing 1992 Bad Lieutenant (which is where Herzog stole the title for his own film and several of the plot points, even though it officially has nothing to do with the original), which is very thoroughly not only a serious drama but a creepy, highly effective one at that; but I just found it hard to get into the wacky comedic take on corrupt cops that Herzog turns in here, nor Nicolas Cage's insanely over-the-top performance which has been getting him "comeback" buzz all over the media these days. Because that's the important thing to know about this film if you don't already, that Herzog deliberately meant for this seemingly dramatic noir about a pill- and whore-addicted police officer to actually be a wacky comedy; but also as we all know, the Germans aren't exactly known for being masters of wacky comedy, and what Herzog meant here as jokes often come across to Americans as head-scratching weirdness, unfortunately at the expense of the story elements that made the original such a chilling success. (And this is not to mention the fact that Herzog waters down even the basic premise; in his version, Cage is given an on-job accident and subsequent chronic pain to explain his drug addiction, painting him primarily as a good cop whose circumstances have driven him to badness; in Ferrara's original, Harvey Keitel's corrupt cop is simply evil from minute one, delivering a much stronger message about the inherent temptations of authority than Herzog's tongue-in-cheek take on the material.) A disappointment, given how many good things I had heard about it beforehand, but I suspect will be liked a lot more by those who haven't seen the original.

Strangest piece of trivia: Cage snorted baby powder during this film's cocaine scenes. Also, the "iguana cam" shots (don't ask) were extemporaneously added by Herzog during shooting itself.

Worth your time? Right on the border between yes and no

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:32 AM, April 28, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |