Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009, Werner Herzog)

Nicolas Cage’s first good part since Lord of War and Val Kilmer’s first good movie since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Cage hurts his back rescuing a prisoner, starts taking lots and lots of drugs and racks up gambling debts. He robs kids outside clubs, gets a violent dude mad at Cage’s hooker girlfriend and loses a key witness. Surely he is a bad lieutenant, but he has a few principles, and Cage’s charismatic intensity keeps us on his side even as he’s waving guns at grammas (lovable Irma P. Hall of the Coens’ Ladykillers). Ultimately he takes down a drug baddie (Exhibit, fifth-billed in the second X-Files movie), saves his girl (Cage’s Ghost Rider costar Eva Mendes) and pays off his bookie (Awwww Brad Dourif is getting old. Life is too short).

Nic, Brad and red beans:

The story (from a lead writer on Cop Rock) isn’t great, and the idea (remaking Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant) is awful, but Herzog pulls it off with flair. The occasional weirdness (extreme closeups of reptiles, including an iguana music video – what is it about drug movies and visions of reptiles? See also Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas), the sense that Cage is having too much fun to take anything seriously, and a lovely tacked-on ending where Cage meets the ex-con he saved and they get philosophical at an aquarium rescue this doomed movie and turn it into something I’d actually recommend. Can’t wait to see Werner’s other 2009 movie (star Michael Shannon, the contagiously crazy dude in Bug, shows up here as a police property guy).


Cage pulls up at a building I think I saw in Wild At Heart. Maybe lots of buildings in New Orleans look like that. Jennifer Coolidge (Pootie Tang), Fairuza Balk and other names I know or faces I’ve seen pop up regularly. Surprising that so many actors wanted to be associated with a cheapie indie remake of a cult film, but I guess you can’t discount the Herzog factor.


Your ending really defies expectations. I’m not quite sure what to think about it, in fact. We expect one of two possible endings — the bad lieutenant triumphs, or he is punished for his misdeeds. And you really don’t give us either one.


In my opinion, it’s a very beautiful and very mysterious ending. You see, according to the screenplay, it ended with a false happy ending that became a real abyss of darkness. And I thought, no, we should not dismiss the audience like that, out into the street. There should be something vague, something poetic, something mysterious.

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