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cinemadaily | Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant" Docks in US

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire November 19, 2009 at 4:41AM

Werner Herzog's rough remake of the Abel Ferrara's 1992 film "Bad Lieutenant," "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" is heading to US waters, after screenings in Venice and Toronto. David Edelstein of New York Magazine tackles the film, "In Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (a sequel to Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant in name only), [Nicholas Cage] plays Terence McDonagh, whose back is injured as he saves a prisoner when the levees break. As he moves from prescription painkillers to huge amounts of crack and smack, his shoulders stiffen, eyes bulge, and lips pull back to reveal hungry choppers. He’s like a vampirized Richard Nixon. Werner Herzog directed, deftly at first (plenty of noir atmosphere) but with escalating wigginess, as if trying to keep up with his leading man."
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Werner Herzog's rough remake of the Abel Ferrara's 1992 film "Bad Lieutenant," "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" is heading to US waters, after screenings in Venice and Toronto. David Edelstein of New York Magazine tackles the film, "In Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (a sequel to Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant in name only), [Nicholas Cage] plays Terence McDonagh, whose back is injured as he saves a prisoner when the levees break. As he moves from prescription painkillers to huge amounts of crack and smack, his shoulders stiffen, eyes bulge, and lips pull back to reveal hungry choppers. He’s like a vampirized Richard Nixon. Werner Herzog directed, deftly at first (plenty of noir atmosphere) but with escalating wigginess, as if trying to keep up with his leading man."

In his raving review, Roger Ebert also praises Cage's work. "He's a fearless actor. He doesn't care if you think he goes over the top. If a film calls for it, he will crawl to the top hand over hand with bleeding fingernails. Regard him in films so various as 'Wild at Heart' and 'Leaving Las Vegas.' He and Herzog were born to work together. They are both made restless by caution." Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman joins the chorus. "In his schlocky paycheck movies, Nicolas Cage glowers and throws tantrums, as if trying to prove he really means it, man. He does the same thing in 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,' Werner Herzog's loopy and improbably entertaining remake of the 1992 Abel Ferrara dark-side-of-everything cult classic. Except that Cage is now doing his operatic bug-eyed intensity thing because the role actually calls for it. As Terence McDonagh, a homicide cop who is always high on coke and heroin, Cage walks with a crooked slouch and a barely visible tilt of the head; he gives this rogue officer a touch of Igor. McDonagh whips himself into adrenalized states beyond doubt or fear, but he also uses his addictions to be a better cop. He's a crackhead undercover agent in hell."

Karina Longworth, on SpoutBlog, comments on the pair, "What makes the film an undeniable blast is that Herzog’s ongoing obsession with man’s inherent animal instinct meets its ideal expression in Nicolas Cage, an actor for whom hysteria is autopilot, who here finally finds justification for his odd hybrid of wide eyes and monotone. Whether they know they’re doing it or not, the actor and director laugh in the face of the earnest spiritual confusion that’s ultimately the Ferrara film’s raison d’etre, conjuring a powerfully loony portrait of American rot."

The Village Voice's J. Hoberman takes a break from the Cage love to talk a bit about Herzog's strengths as a story teller. "Essentially a documentarian, Herzog has always been as concerned with location as with character; 'Port of Call' is as much about the sorry state of New Orleans as it is about that of the protagonist's mental health. Although the filmmaker might have made more of it, the city is a memorable presence—a smashed terrarium, half-empty, partially ruined, at once sun-blasted and submerged in swamp water and sweat. No wonder the iguanas are at home."

In Slant Magazine, Fernado F. Croce adds, "For all its frenetic dark humor, this dizzying fever of a thriller is never a nihilistic work. It may not have the wounding thrust of Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, but it shares with that film a bottomless compassion for its crazies, to say nothing of the exhilaration of seeing a fearless director and a fearless actor pushing each other beyond extremes."

We'll end our tour through generally positive reviews with Eric Kohn's measured critique on indieWIRE, "It’s a maniacal character piece before anything else, but the script falters often enough to highlight a disconnect between Herzog’s vision and the messy trajectory of the story. Set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it deals in chaos as a cycle, but the plot details feel sloppy. Still, while Herzog can do better, it goes without saying that Cage could do a lot worse."

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