How bad is the bad lieutenant? He’s very bad. How bad is Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans? Hmm… I was looking forward to Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans because I was particularly interested in how Nicolas Cage would interpret the role originated by Harvey Keitel in 1992’s Bad Lieutenant (directed by Abel Ferrera). There were some awful print reviews of that movie and I remember a pair of popular television critics who complained that even the title was bad; it reminded them of disciplining a dog: “Bad dog! Bad!” For some reason leaving out “The” irritated them. Articlemania, I guess.
Horrible reviews cannot keep me from a Harvey Keitel film, even if it’s directed by Abel Ferrara, so I watched that version and it was dismal. Sure, Keitel was great, and although I already knew the lieutenant was no Mr. Nice Guy, I found the movie to be generally dark and depressing. Keitel’s lieutenant was a “Gambler. Thief. Junkie. Killer. Cop.”
Nicolas Cage’s portrayal is different, although equally dark. Directed by Werner Herzog, Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans gives us a lieutenant who is a gambler, thief, junkie, killer, and cop. Oh, wait a sec—that’s what the first Bad Lieutenant gave us. Well, in this version he has a name (Terence McDonagh). He tries to be Mr. Nice Guy (occasionally), and proves to have a heart. He’s also inept at both police work and crime.
While Harvey Keitel’s lieutenant was despicable, Nicolas Cage’s is so off the wall, he may not be likable but he is good for a few laughs. Early in the film we learn he has a back injury and he’s given Vicodin for it. Before long he’s doing Vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, coke, crack, heroin, weed, and whatever else he can get his hands on (Ma, hide the Midol!). He’s also addicted to gambling and sex (though the drugs prove problematic in that area).
We see him on night patrol, where he shakes down couples to steal their drugs and then has sex with the female, forcing the male to watch. His girlfriend is a hooker on coke (Eva Mendes), and his father is an alcoholic (Tom Bower), as is his father’s wife (Jennifer Coolidge). He shakes down his girlfriend's "dates" for drugs and tosses them out of her apartment.
McDonagh is investigating a mass murder, five people (two of whom were children) wiped out in a drug-related massacre. Although that’s sensational, it takes a back seat to McDonagh’s personal life, which is spiraling downward rapidly. He’s got major problems with his bookie (who shows up in the squad room trying to collect), one of his girlfriend’s johns, and the drug kingpin who is probably involved in the massacre.
McDonagh’s drug use has him more and more out of control; a scene with two elderly women whom he threatens (one with a gun, the other by cutting off her oxygen) informs us of his condition. But that’s not the worst. He involves himself with the “big” drug dealer, and is so crack happy, he’s like the Joker on speed. His fellow cops don’t seem to notice the change, even when he’s hallucinating iguanas.
As he continues his descent, we know there can be no happy ending to this story. Sure, he may crack (get it?) the case, but he’s got to go down, too. He’s broken every law ever passed and is as immoral as hell. In the last ten minutes, which depicts “one year later,” the viewer feels high on crack. The ending is dark and depressing. Just not satisfying.
Special features include a digital photo book, making-of video, and trailers.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans? I would rent it out of curiosity but I’m not so sure I’d recommend it.