Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans


A bit of checkered history here. Abel Ferrara made a movie Bad Lieutenant in 1992. I’ve never seen it, and so also claims the director of this one, the always baffling but usually intriguing Werner Herzog. He claims it is a re-imagining, but Ferrara says he felt he had been raped. Both are clearly the same story, of a cop (Harvey Keitel in the original, Nicholas Cage here) who is gradually turning bad due to drug addiction. From here on out I will ignore the original, and only speak of what I saw in this one.

Cage has a terrible back injury, suffered while diving into a flooded jail to rescue an inmate in danger of drowning shortly after Katrina. His doctor tells him he will never get any better, and gives him a strong painkiller. But soon he is snorting coke, and getting it any way he can, such as terrorizing and blackmailing people he braces on the street, and stealing it from the evidence room. His life is further complicated by a sports gambling addiction, so that he owes more and more money to his bookie. At first he is sincerely investigating the executions of five members of a family from Senegal, including two young children. But he seems to lose interest as everything in his life begins to fall apart. He has a relationship with a high-end prostitute, Eva Mendes, but they both seem more interested in dope than in sex.

From there you see two possible story arcs. In one, he nails the murderer, cleans up his act, and marries Eva. In the other, they both spiral down and down until one or both of them are dead. But this story manages to have it both ways, sort of. Frankly, the ending was a bit puzzling. As were some seemingly gratuitous shots from the point of view of an iguana and an alligator. Symbolism, I guess. I have to say I mostly liked it. Nick Cage makes two kinds of movies. Some are good to very good, and some are totally rotten. Sadly, the ratio of the last kind to the first kind seems to be getting larger and larger.