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 Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant   Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:33 am

Werner Herzog has had an eventful and colourful film career, from his collaberations with the great Klaus Kinski on Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982), to films like Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970), The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) and Rescue Dawn (2007), plus documentaries including My Best Fiend (1999), Grizzly Man (2005) and Encounters at the End of the World (2007). He's had a go at just about everything. In 2008, it was announced that Herzog would be doing a remake. In particular, it was going to be a remake of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (1992), a grim, raw, dirty, seedy drama starring Harvey Keitel as a drug-addled, perverted New York cop who falls deeper and deeper into his own hell. Many thought Herzog must have been smoking something strong to want to do a remake of that. Expect that with the finished product. It's not a remake, neither is it a sequel. It only has passing parallels at Ferrara's 1992 film, but this is a truly original film in it's own right. Bad Lieutenant, or to give the film it's full title, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, this is Herzog's most colourful, darkest and maybe maddest film in ages, and it makes for compelling viewing thanks to a brilliant lead actor who has rediscovered his mojo after a decade or so of duds.

Set in a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, this has Police Captain Terrence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage), who after rescuing a prisoner from drowning, is promoted to lieutenant, but he's sustained a back injury that may be with him for the rest of his life, he's perscribed Vicodin. Jump 6 months later, and McDonagh is now a heavy drug user, also using cocaine, heroin and marijuana, he gets alot of them from the streets and even from the evidence room of the police station. He also has a bad gambling habit, as he owes alot of money to his bookie Ned Schoenholtz (Brad Dourif), he has a girlfriend with hooker Frankie (Eva Mendes). He and his partner Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) are assigned to investigate the massacre of an African family living illegally in New Orleans. The main suspect is local crime kingpin Big Fate (Xzibit), knowing he is a big drugs dealer, McDonagh decides to move into Big Fate's inner circle so he can get his drugs and help bring him down.

First thing's first, this has nothing to do with the original Bad Lieutenant, the only thing they have in common is that they share the same producer, Edward R. Pressman. But, this is a film which has Herzog written all over it, and it references his past films here and there, including his love with nature, note the point of view from an alligator and the amusing iguanas. Plus, there's a somewhat cheeky replay of the chicken dance song from Stroszek (1977), and Cage walks like what Klaus Kinski did in Aguirre, Wrath of God. In fact, Cage seems to channel Kinski's unhinged tension and energy in places, you could almost imagine Kinski in that part had he still been alive and have still had the energy he portrayed in his great films with Herzog, it could have been the best film ever made, but here Cage makes the role his own, it's almost like a more unhinged version of Castor Troy from Face/Off. But, after alot of personal problems and making all the wrong choices which may have stilted his performances, it's finally good to see Cage getting his act together once again, even in Kick-Ass, he showed signs that he still has it, this furthers it.

Herzog shows a dark side to New Orleans, this is obviously set in the days after Hurricane Katrina, which brought the great city to it's knees. But, Herzog gives the film a cool detachment, but there is a richness to it all, it's done with colour and life, but it is very dark too, the scene where McDonagh terrorises a nurse and an elderly woman is powerful and near unwatchable. This is a depiction of a man's decent into hell, but it doesn't take that fall into hell too seriously, there is a blacker-than-black streak of humour about it's bones. Even Herzog gets the best out of his cast, Cage as mentioned is at his best in years, and has found the perfect director to get the best out of him in Herzog. Mendes worked with Cage on Ghost Rider (2007), and it's a different kind of role, and there's a maturity with a role like this, as the only woman who truly understands McDonagh, and feels for him. Kilmer, who is in need of a comeback just feels a teeny-weeny bit wasted here, disappearing after the first quarter of the film, Xzibit, the rapper known over here for Pimp My Ride, makes a good, powerful baddie, and it's always good to see Brad Dourif in anything, always a reliable actor no matter what.



This is Werner Herzog's most accessible, mainstream film. In fact, it's the closest thing we'll ever see to a Hollywood film from him. It's got odd flourishes of madness you wouldn't see in a cop drama. Only problem is the title, judging by Cage's unhinged, demonic performance, this should have been called Mad Lieutenant, as that's what he is. But, the odd touches, showing the action from the point-of-views from animals adds another element of surrealism to the proceedings, is it a vision of McDonagh's drug use, or are they really there?? On the basis of this, you'll want to see more from Herzog, and he isn't quite finished with Hollywood yet, he's recently completed My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2009), produced by David Lynch, and using some of the same cast and crew as Bad Lieutenant, and filmed shortly after this, it looks as if Herzog is entering a new phase in his career. Could he be going mainstream on us?? If he is selling out, on the basis of this, maybe that's a good thing.
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PostSubject: Re: Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant   Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:35 am

Not all of Cage's films have been duds in the last 10 years, but when he makes a mistake he usually makes a big mistake Very Happy


I'm looking forward to seeing this, though my Herzog track record has not been great.

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