Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans

In 1992, Harvey Keitel starred in "Bad Lieutenant". That film is a classic due to the raw, gutsy, over the top performance of Mr. Keitel as the most amoral cop ever. Now, Director Werner Herzog re-imagines the character, setting him in post Katrina New Orleans. This is not a sequel and has no connection to the former film except for the fact this new Lieutenant is just as amoral and into as much illegal activity as the original.

Nicolas Cage is an interesting actor. He seems to make many films just for the paycheck and then every once in a while, he pulls out all the stops and digs deep into his character. In "Bad Lieutenant", he pays homage to Mr. Keitel but also makes the character his own and gives one of his best performances. While he is excellent in the film, the story lacks the depth and raw emotion of the original.

The film has features a fine supporting cast. Eva Mendes is Mr. Cage's hooker girlfriend (with an original twist), Val Kilmer is his partner, the rapper Xhibit plays a drug dealer, Brad Dourif is a bookie (nice to see him working again) and Jennifer Coolidge (playing out of her comedy safety zone in a dramatic turn) is an alcoholic step mom. I must voice two complaints, however. Since the film authentically takes place in New Orleans, why don't any of the characters have a "Nawlin's" accent and why must all rapper turned actors play drug dealers?

The first film had religious overtones with deep Catholic subtext. There is nothing in the new film to suggest guilt or atonement. Mr. Cage never seems to suffer for his transgressions but his performance is riveting and on the surface captures the spirit of the original film.

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