By William Wolf


Filmmaker Werner Herzog is on different territory this time with this highly atmospheric police story that was shown at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” has a dynamic role for Nicolas Cage, and he delivers admirably, winning fresh respect for his ability.

New Orleans provides an interesting location in the wake of the hurricane that resulted in the flooding of much of the city. Shot during the summer of 2008, the film offers a background of what the area has become. Cage is colorful as Terence McDonagh, a detective who makes his own rules and operates recklessly. He is hooked on drugs, and Cage gives a brazen portrait of someone managing to function on the edge.

Although in the realm of film noir, the work provides considerable humor, mostly supplied by the sheer audacity of Cage’s detective character and the way in which he flouts regulations and abuses his position of power. But make no mistake, danger and violence lurk, and the question is whether an addict can handle the challenges and emerge heroic.

The love interest in the film involves McDonagh and a prostitute, Frankie, played y the appealing Eva Mendes. The screenplay by William Finkelstein is loaded with smart lines, action and tension, yet the film as directed by Herzog moves along as an off-beat, enjoyable escapade. It is helped by overall excellent casting, including Val Kilmer and Fairuza Balk.

This is the sort of film that not everyone will relate to, but those who appreciate its attitude are likely to find much enjoyment. As for Cage’s work here, he is the major show, whether zonked, pathetic or bold.


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