The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans ★★★★½

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The line between absurdity and soundness in Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is as thin as the arrangement of words in the title is chaotic. Given Herzog's reputation for outrageous, often illogical approaches to character studies, nothing about that should have been surprising in the least.

As a non-remake of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (Herzog himself stated he had never seen Ferrara's film, and the coincidental sameness of title and premise was entirely unintended on his part, while Ferrara held a year-long grudge against Herzog for daring something as unfathomable as remaking his finest work), Herzog manages to make this film all about character and setting. The dirt, the pollution, the gritty aesthetic of the post-Katrina New Orleans setting puts Nicolas Cage's character into context, a foul-mouthed, self-hating, drug addicted police detective with anger issues. It's the perfect role for Cage, a character that he can really sink his teeth into and let all his bottled-up insanity flow into the performance. You might think of Cage in Vampire's Kiss as lunatic, but his performance in Bad Lieutenant is just as deranged while managing to bring a lot more depth to the character.

But it's not just Cage, or the beautiful rendition of the swampy New Orleans setting that makes Bad Lieutenant such an entertaining movie: it's also the deeply idiosyncratic, unpredictable subversion of the screenplay, the entertainment Herzog evokes from the underlying crime story, and the talented supporting cast that brings you some wonderful performances from the likes of Jennifer Coolidge, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Val Kilmer.

It might just be my fascination with the setting and the thorough character study, but Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans unexpectedly turned into a film that I did not want to end. That might be because it has iguanas in it, or because the score is one of the best mood creators I have seen recently. No matter what, this Herzog film is a masterpiece that immediately shot into my favorites, and will likely be a discovery that I will return to in the future. Why it doesn't receive more attention is beyond me; there are myriads of fascinating details to unravel and talk about here, as it is such a detailed and profound film. Surely one of Herzog's finest works.

Included in: 2009 | Werner Herzog

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