From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - B+

Rated R for drug use and language throughout, some violence and sexuality, 121 minutes

"Bad Lieutenant" is an arresting portrait of one bad cop

"Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" is a hypnotic, often explosive story of a corrupt, drug-addicted cop in Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. It's dirty, seedy and a little over-the-top (OK, maybe way over-the-top) but then that is its appeal. A very loose remake of the 1992 Harvey Keitel film "Bad Lieutenant," it also provides Nicolas Cage with a commanding, Oscar-worthy performance and his best in years.

Cage is Terrence McDonagh, a New Orleans Police sergeant, who starts out as a good cop, receiving a medal and a promotion to lieutenant for heroism during Hurricane Katrina. During his heroic act, McDonagh injures his back and later becomes addicted to prescription pain medication and becomes involved with a drug-addicted prosititute named Frankie (Eva Mendes). McDonagh quickly finds himself on the dark side of life, struggling with addictions and tangling with drug dealer Big Fate (rapper Xzibit), who is suspected of murdering a family of African immigrants.

"Bad Lieutenant" is a splendidly dark tale of the underside of New Orleans and the exploits of one corrupt cop. Directed with flavor by Werner Herzog ("Rescue Dawn"), the film is a very, very loose remake of an earlier 1992 film "Bad Lieutenant," starring Harvey Keitel, though it bears little resemblance to that seedy film. In fact, Herzog improves upon that uneven film considerably, held together by a mesmerizing, centerpiece performance from Cage, with his best role in years and a reminder of why he won an Oscar for "Leaving Las Vegas" 14 years ago. Given his penchant for annoyingly overacting in the worst way, I forgot that Cage can be an affecting, even hypnotic actor, but he delivers a terrific turn here, making you forget anything with "National Treasure" in the title (and hopefully overcome his current financial troubles).

Eva Mendes, another actor noted for more commerical roles, also has a strong turn as his junkie hooker girlfriend. Herzog has assembled some of the finest character actors to deliver some memorable scenes. Jennifer Coolidge (of the Christopher Guest films) is excellent as a blowsy, alcoholic younger wife of Terrence's father, as is Brad Dourif as a bookie friend and Dallas-site Irma P. Hall as a grandmother of a witness who's quite bothered by Terrence's questions (one scene with Hall, Cage and an elderly woman is one of the film's highlights). One disappointment: Val Kilmer is hardly there as a fellow corrupt cop, wishing he had more screen time.

The script takes some nice downturns down some dark alley's, and New Orleans never looked so gray, though the plot chases too many rabbits and some part of its mid-section don't seem fleshed out. And as mesmerizing as "Bad Lieutenant" is at times, it doesn't have a huge wide appeal; those who have become accustomed to Cage's action-hero roles will be quite surprised when they find out all the terrible things he does here. The film's final scene is a stark reminder that a leopard (especially a drug-addicted one) never quite loses its spots.

Every few years, Cage reminds us that he can still act. "Moonstruck," "Leaving Las Vegas," "Adaptation," and now "Bad Lieutenant." Let's enjoy it while we can before we get more bad hairpieces and saving the world action set-pieces like we saw with dreck like this year's "Knowing."