To say Nicolas Cage is not my favourite actor would be an understatement. That said films like Con Air are a guilty pleasure of mine. Cage stars in Werner Herzog's 2009 film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. I haven't seen the 1992 film of the same name so I'm coming at this film from an original standpoint.
Cage is Terrence McDonaugh, a lieutenant in the New Orleans police department with an ailing back, earned saving a prisoner during the Katrina floods, that has lead to a growing drug and gambling addiction. The story revolves around a murder investigation, however, the police work is only ever a long second to McDonaugh's spiral out of control. To say the wheels fall off as the story progresses would suggest they were even on in the first place. Cage is fantastic as the reckless, dishevelled, bug-eyed and hunched over addict on the slope to despair. It is definitely by favourite performance by the guy.
Beating David Simon's Treme to the punch, post-Katrina New Orleans is an apt setting for the lawlessness and desperate nature of the film's main character.
Although McDonaugh is certainly a bad lieutenant, snorting coke in front of a teenage witness and pulling the oxygen tube out of an elderly lady's nose while interrogating and verbally abusing her, most of his meltdowns and law-breaking come in pursuit of the drugs he needs and his police work remains largely on point.
The film is maniacally amusing as McDonuagh loses control and coupled with Herzog's abstract direction and William Finkelstein's script, it almost becomes a black comedy. The stand out scene in Bad Lieutenant involves the camera cutting to two iguanas on a table (the iguanas being a hallucination of McDonaughs) where the camera stays watching McDonaugh (who stares back) and his team on a stakeout from the iguana point of view for over a minute with nothing but music playing. Surreal indeed.
The supporting cast is strong and includes Eva Mendes, Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), Val Kilmer and X-Zibit but there is only one bad lieutenant.
An excellent film featuring a great performance from Nicholas Cage.