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Bad Lieutenant Deserves Serious Release

Bad Lieutenant Deserves Serious Release

Thompson on Hollywood

In this day and age, any indie movie that gets a release at all is lucky, I suppose.

But Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is getting a raw deal. As I reported all along, it is, contrary to some reports, getting a limited theatrical release in November. When financeer Avi Lerner isn’t able to get the upfront cash he wants on a movie, he puts it out through his micro-distributor First Look. (At least he has that option.)

But Bad Lieutenant (which is remotely related to the 1992 Abel Ferrara/Harvey Keitel original) isn’t some fancy-dancy high-end festival picture. It plays! (So far, its reviews are raves.) At Telluride and Toronto, the folks ate up Nic Cage’s hugely entertaining performance. There’s box office in this New Orleans comedy-thriller about a wacked-out-cop on the rampage, if someone would put some P & A behind it. More than most stars, Cage can pull audiences. It seems a shame to throw this away.

Too bad Lerner can’t hire the Paramount marketing team, because they could do wonders with a viral campaign for this. Maybe Lerner could try the demand-a-movie approach: if audiences demand to see it in their town, will he book it?

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ken taylor

please can anyone tell me who sund the track release me in the fiilm bad lieutenant


I’m sure it’s not “mainstream” in the sense that folks dying for Transformers 3 are going to come out in droves. But I’m not sure the prerequisites you mention are critical enough to prevent it from having appeal to a fairly wide audience. Call me a cockeyed optimist but I think over the top camp, bizarre behavior and just a touch of weirdness can still bring in an audience (I’d guess Cage wouldn’t hurt either). ;-) Guess no one will really know the way its release is playing out though.

Taking your example, I can barely remember the Keitel version, am not a huge follower of Herzog, and only learned of his association with Lynch after seeing Bad Lieutenant New Orleans. Though after reading your review (which I also liked btw) discussing the in-jokes I clearly missed I almost feel I need to see the earlier version and then go back and see this again to see if I found it even better the 2nd time. :-)

Come to think of it it’s possible that knowing about the Lynch association with ‘My Son My Son What Have Ye done’ might have hurt my perception of it. I’ve seen that film as well and while clearly not fair to compare them directly I just didn’t find it nearly as interesting. In that one the “strangeness” seemed to come off occasionally as trying too hard (though there was great visuals and some good performances). Whereas in bad lieutenant the off kilter parts were woven in well enough that I had to stop and confirm to myself that it was odd (even the breakdancing soul made some sense in the moment of the characters frame of mind to me).

Alan Bacchus

I saw Bad Lieutenant at TIFF, it was a lot of fun I loved it, but it’s definitely not mainstream wide release material. You kinda have to have knowledge of a) the original film which Herzog essentially lampoons b) Herzog’s mad filmmaking history and c) Herzog’s new association with David Lynch to get it.

I think most ‘regular’ people will be lost.

Michel Kleistra

Why is Mr. Lerner not using a P & A fund to release this wide.
If the reviews are raving everywhere I am sure it will go wide, somehow.

Alan Green

when i first heard of this remake i just rolled my eyes. but the footage i’ve seen looks very good. looking forward to it


Bo – did you get a chance to see the film? I thought something very similar before I did (that’s why I debated going in the first place). I don’t really see it as a remake, excepting the name and the inclusion of a very bad lieutenant. Not a loving everything Herzog does guy (nor Cage for that matter) but as over the top campy fun it really worked. And what Anne wrote about positive impressions is true. Most everyone I ran into liked the film (though some took it a bit less as camp and as a more serious treatment). Most of the divergence I ran into is over whether people expected it to be good or were sort of surprised how much they’d enjoyed it.

Anne Thompson

Hey Bo,

Did you see it? It’s so far away from having much relation to the Abel Ferrara original with Harvey Keitel, which was raw, nasty stuff. This is FUNNY. Not cynical. Cage is very canny.


Wow – I’m pretty shocked. Now I’m extra glad I stood in line to see this in Telluride ( I went in with low expectations but ended up having a great time. It’s hard for me to believe that there’s not a market for the film with general audiences. I hope the limited screenings somehow steamroll into something larger. Can’t believe a little strangeness (in a very good way) is going to scare folks off from this film.


Are you nuts? It doesn’t deserve anything but a burial. No need to remake the original, none at all, other than a payday for Cage and some press mentions for Herzog. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re a critic or a flack.

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