Nicholas Cage Unleashed: ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’

I’ve been frequently told that I think too much, tend to go overboard on the analysis of all things great and trivial. I torment myself and others with too many, “What does it all mean?”

Why are you looking at me that way?  Okay, I know. You are wondering how I am able to consume copious hours of reality television. The answer: I give brain a mini vacay from thinking with a promise to resume its usual task once the show, or in this most recent case, the movie,  Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, is over.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which opened last Friday, starring Nicholas Cage, is quite predictable even in its unpredictability. But if you love your Nick Cage over-the-top and chomping on the scenery like El Chubracabra, this is the film for you.

Directed by Werner Herzog, the film has Cage (Terence McDonagh) as a not-so-great cop gone bad but still doing what he needs to do for the sake of the greater good even it’s bad. Get that?  Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Nicholas Cage and Val Kilmer in 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans' (photo: Courtesy of Fanscape)

You see, the story takes place in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. The levees have broken. The police station is flooding. In an effort to save a prisoner trapped in a cell in which the water is rising rapidly, Cage dives in. He saves the prisoner but injures his back.  To ease the pain, a doctor prescribes some medication. Cage takes it as well as his own self-prescribed meds. He particularly likes the kind that come in powder form — if you know what I mean. Cage uses rather unconventional means of scoring drugs. I don’t want to reveal anything. Let’s just say he has a gun and a badge and is not afraid to use it.

Although Cage, who was promoted to Lieutenant following the heroic rescue, pursues drugs like it was his job to do so, Cage’s real job is to investigate the drug-related, execution style murder of a Sengalese family.

Eva Mendes in 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans' (photo: Courtesy of Fanscape)

The film follows Cage as he attempts to keep it together enough to track down the criminals. Oh, if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he takes time to get a little loving and a hit of the good stuff from his high class hooker, addict girlfriend played by Eva Mendes (Frankie Donnenfeld). Mendes’ performance, a take on the hooker with a heart of gold — kind of, sort of — is top of the line B-movie quality…Now, wait a minute, I’m not saying she is bad. Not at all. She gives a good performance in a very limited role.

Xzibit, Nicholas Cage and Cohorts from 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans' (photo: Courtesy of Fanscape

Every cop film needs a villain.  Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans has one in rapper turned actor Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner (Big Fate), the drug lord sought in connection with the murders. He is surprisingly good, giving a calm, measured performance in contrast to Cage’s wild man antics.

Another surprise, a rather odd one, is the film’s supporting cast which includes noted actors such as Jennifer Coolidge, Irma P. Hall, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Val Kilmer as Cage’s partner.  To say that they are underutilized, would be an understatement.  The truth of the matter is that it’s Cage’s film and everyone is there in service to him. Now is not the time for breakout performances.

I’m going to do a bit of thinking right now. I do have to say that I expected a better treatment of New Orleans as backdrop. There was no sense of place or reason why the story needed to take place in this particular location at this particular time.  As it is filmed, New Orleans looks like just another blighted American city, not one so keenly etched into our collective consciousness.

Well, enough of that.

Nick Cage fans. You get your man just like you like him – – bigger than life, wild, with a healthy dose of camp.


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