The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

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


Disclaimer: probably suffering from a case of unavoidable comparison bias. In a vacuum, there’s a chance this’d score a little bit higher, but existing in the shadow of Ferrara’s masterpiece brings to light some things I otherwise might not’ve perceived as “flaws”—scare quotes because they’re still not really flaws per se, just things that sag for me personally. For example, the bizarro, cynically comic tone (viz., the “Herzogian” tint) strikes me as slightly…off, but only given I know how powerful this material is when applied to a template of pure, eminent grimness. Cage is great in his own way—e.g. the first tirade against a drugstore pharmacist showcases his ability to wrangle with preposterously unhinged—but Keitel’s straight-laced phlegm and Ferrara’s refusal to ever get even moderately gonzo are what makes their version such an internally fissuring bombshell. It’s possible—actually quite probable—that Herzog was going for an entirely different tone, something freakishly burlesque and extremely aware of its own gelatinous farce, but everything outside of Cage’s grade-A bawdiness feels more or less like a borderline-rote detective thriller with a semi-crooked lieutenant at the helm (mostly w.r.t. the texture, though the copper narrative also has a bit more credence here instead of being wholly superfluous); that is, everything aside from the strange iguana inserts and extended lamentations about an old, silver spoon. It’s entertaining as hell, but also supremely weightless. Plus what an ugly (and not in “good” way) ending. Intentional cheekiness does not necessarily negate… the cheekiness.

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