Saturday, May 08, 2010
I'm a fan of the original Bad Lieutenant. I'm also a fan of Werner Herzog. When I heard that Werner Herzog had helmed a re-imagining of Bad Lieutenant set in post-Katrina New Orleans, I thought "well, I kind of have to see that."
I wasn't too disappointed. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call has all the elements of the original, and in some ways is more artfully done. But it is nowhere near its predecessor in terms of sleazy, gritty intensity. The missing piece is Harvey Keitel, who as an actor is totally superior in every respect to replacement Nicolas Cage.
Don't get me wrong: I like Nicolas Cage. I adored him in Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Leaving Las Vegas, Wild at Heart, and even in pap like Con Air. But compared to Keitel's smoldering and believable performance, Cage's take is ham-fisted and awkward at times. The more derailed and hopeless his character becomes, the more Cage tries to create goofy physical tics in order to compensate for lack of subtlety. At times his "crackhead cop strung out" looks more like Richard Nixon doing a bad Ed Sullivan impersonation. When he tries to be Klaus Kinski late in the film Cage's performance is almost laughably awful.
But Herzog is a wise director and he's most capable with this sort of material. He manages to set the tone to match Cage's goofiness by throwing quirky and bleak existentialist humor into the mix. So: flawed, but entertaining.
I was disappointed there was no director's commentary track on the DVD, however. I wanted to hear Herzog's comments on the iguana scene, the alligator scene, and on the closing scene in the aquarium.
Shout out to my man Xibit, who not only pimps rides, but pimps out a good performance here alongside old-timers like Cage and Val Kilmer. Eva Mendes proves she's more than a pretty face as well.