Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, 2009
Dir: Werner Herzog
December 9, 2009

"Shoot him again!"
"What the fuck for?"
"His soul is still dancing."

A complete shambles of a movie that is totally worth watching for the hilarity and bizarre sincerity that is Nicholas Cage doing his best Klaus Kinski. What's obvious is that Cage is not doing anything new (even pulling a little Sailor Ripley at times), or anything that wouldn't make you roll your eyes in one of the many blockbusters that he's in. But in this, it just works, even if it doesn't add up to any kind of powerful character study. Cage, like Kinski (Aguierre (1972), Fitzcarraldo (1982), is perfect for a Herzog's fiction film because the artifice of character that he bellows out while he struts around seems at odds with Herzog's visceral reality that defines all of his films, and yet completely enhances Herzog's storytelling abilities. The plot kind of gets in the way most of the time, so all you have to know is that Cage's character is a dirty cop (or just a cop that get's the job done?), and just 'cause he like to get high don't mean he stop bein' the po-leece. The more drug-addled his mind gets, the stranger he gets, and while he seems to be messing up his life, his police work still means everything to him even as he gets sucked deeper into the serpent's world filled with gators and iguanas. Val Kilmer is his just as weird kind-of partner who is not in nearly enuugh of this, Eva Mendes is his hooker girlfriend who suddenly decides to get clean, and Xzibit is a gangster named Big Fate who has two lackeys called Midget and Gee (the bit about "Gee," a name that Cage finds ironically amusing, is one of the funniest things in the movie). Low contrast, gritty, and cocksure, Herzog lands on a stylistic swagger I’d expect for a movie with the synopsis at hand. However, I was left wondering how these choices contribute to any semblance of structure. They don't. The dialogue on institutional failure doesn’t hold a candle to The Wire either. But only Werner Herzog could have made this Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (which I'm guessing is a bit different than the original) because only he has such a bizarre vault of fresh images and ideas that he so willingly feeds to us. All this silliness straight into seriousness, and also the Herzogian commitment to the strange; the peculiarly poetic moments of Cage reading the poem of a dead Senegalese boy about his fish or how he explains to his girlfriend that he found a spoon in his yard when he was a boy that he thought was buried treasure and then hid it in a shed, but has no idea now where in the shed he hid it. Even if it is rather garbled, and at the end Cage is right back shakin down kids outside a club for sex and drugs, this was hypnotic in it's looseness and unpredictability. Not to mention pretty fuckin' funny. A real guilty pleasure.


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