Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
Nominated for the Golden Lion at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, Werner Herzog’s latest takes its title and basic plot elements (a sleazy, drug-addled police sergeant as protagonist) from the 1992 Abel Ferrara film – which Herzog (sensationally) claims never to have seen.
Nicolas Cage may seem reckless casting, but here it pays off: his hallucinogenic intensity for once perfectly matches the character he’s playing, and he is simply mesmerising as Terence McDonaugh, a morally confused New Orleans police sergeant.
Lauded for heroism during Hurricane Katrina, McDonaugh develops a roster of drug addictions after being prescribed pain medication, and starts a downward slide into the murk.
The viewer rides along with him as he attempts to solve the murder of a family of Senegalese immigrants, protects his stripper girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes) and a witness in peril, takes sexual bribes, and converses with imaginary reptiles.
Herzog doesn’t shy away from showing the dilapidation and poverty of the post-Katrina city, filming in dark, shadowy tones. But you can really sense him having fun behind the camera – and it’s that, together with the loose cannonball of Cage’s performance, which makes this resonant thriller such a pleasure to watch.