Friday, 30 April 2010
REVIEW: Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans
Whether you see a terrible, accidentally hilarious movie or a modern cult classic in which every insane frame is in there for a reason, Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans is a singular movie experience. Haters and fans will agree on one thing. You have never seen a film like this before.
There is something wonderful that happens in this film though. In that it takes that quota of ironical movie enjoyment and twists it entirely on its head, so you're watching a film you're thinking is kind of terrible, laughing in what you would presume to be all the wrong places, until the moment that it finally clicks that Herzog, Cage and the movie itself are gloriously in on the joke and that far from a feebly sincere cop drama, you're watching one of the most innovative meta-comedies you've ever seen. Herzog had never made a genre movie before this, and its not hard to see why. He's taken a script that, while having a couple of legitimately hilarious moments, is relatively generic and features a plot that draws from all the familiar wells and character beats from the familiar places. But Herzog approaches the material almost from a point of view of satirizing cop movie traits, when he's not flat-out bored of them. In one moment of genius, Herzog pulls away from a stakeout full of expository dialogue to a POV shot of a hallucinated iguana, for like 90 seconds. Or when Cage assaults a pair of OAP's a moment that would be traditionally played for tension or even horror, is just flat out hilarious.
It draws humor out of all the genres usual moments of intensity and in many ways, is a condemnation of guilty pleasure cinema. And I think its meant to be. This kind of thing almost reaches the poetic, a man needing to be shot for a second time because his soul is still dancing, for example, and strikes you with weird, out of place moments that make you laugh but also kind of form a cohesive whole, that works in its own right. There is one reason this film worked as well as it did for me, and that's Nicolas Cage. He gets a lot of rage for his recent work, but his performance here is something of comedic genius. The great thing about it is, this isn't Leaving Las Vegas Cage. This is Wicker Man Cage, only given the appropriate context. And its fucking awesome. Every twisted line delivery, every random explosion of energy, every maniacal outburst, its just perfect. Its a great performance because he knows what we expect of him, for good and bad, and he exceeds it all. He may get a lot wrong, but when Cage gets it right, he gets it right and this performance is easily one of my favorite of the year thus far, and it lifts this film from the realms of arrogant experiment into cult nirvana.
But what's great about Bad Lieutenant is that somebody else could see it and give it a one star and I couldn't really argue with them, but the film I saw was perhaps the most stellar example of film-makers taking the piss I've seen in a very long time. And in its own way, something kind of genius.