Toronto: Nicolas Cage's hilarious performance fuels 'Bad Lieutenant'
I'm not sure who is going to acquire Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," but lord I hope someone does. Surprisingly funny and immensely entertaining, "Bad Lieutenant" is markedly different than it's 1992 predecessor (which is best known for star Harvey Keitel's full frontal nude scene), but beyond the new locale, the film really sets itself apart by Nicolas Cage's fantastic performance.
Set in a post-Katrina New Orleans, "Bad Lieutenant" follows a few days in the life of a Terence McDonagh (Cage) , a career officer in the city police force who suffers from chronic back pain that he can only tolerate by over indulging on prescription drugs, cocaine, heroin and, um, you name it. Things start to go wrong for McDonagh when he's asked to investigate the cold-blooded murder of five Sengalese immigrants. At the same time, a series of events conspire to bring McDonagh's world into a spiral including his hooker girlfriend (Eva Mendes in her element) being blackmailed by a mob thug, his bookie coming after him for $10,000 and a dangerous arrangement with the drug dealing murder suspect Big Fate (a surprising Xzibit). "Bad" man indeed. As the chips fall into place, however, it's McDonagh's crazy luck and smarts portrayed in a smart, relaxed and almost lighthearted style by Cage that makes the storyline work. And even though the tension dissipates as the outlandish events increase throughout the story, the audience still finds itself rooting for McDonagh, a man so screwed up he'll pull over a couple on false charges and then screw a man's girlfriend just to get his desperate cocaine hit. That's not an easy accomplishment for any director, but Herzog really pulls it off.
Val Kilmer, Michael Shannon and Shawn Hatosy are all solid as colleagues in the forece and Fariuza Balk is incredibly sexy in a brief cameo, but it's Cage who is the real star here. This writer tried to recall the last time the Oscar-winner came across as sympathetic, unintentionally endearing and someone you really root for. "Face/Off"? "The Rock"? Shoot, even his work in "Leaving Las Vegas" wasn't easy to watch. In any event, it's been quite a long time. And just as long since Cage has looked like he's been having such a blast on screen. If "Lieutenant" could find distribution soon to make a 2009 release, Cage would stand an excellent shot at another Oscar nomination. No matter what the outcome in that respect, his performance should grab the attention of many filmmakers and producers who may have shied away from him for edgier roles because of his recent run of flicks like "National Treasure," "Knowing" and insert lame thriller here.
"Lieutenant's" thematic point-of-view may not be for everyone, but judging by the audience reaction at the press screening this afternoon it could become a favorite of many.
For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter atTwitter.com/HitFixGregory
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
Let Streaming Genie help you.