Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Roadshow Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

Neither a remake or sequel to Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (1992), starring Harvey Keitel, Werner Herzog's film seems to exist solely for one reason: the off-kilter, manic and ultimately fascinating performance by Nicolas Cage.

Cage plays Terence McDonagh, a cop with the New Orleans police department who is promoted to Lieutenant following an act of bravery during Hurricane Katrina. That act – diving into a flooded police cell to release a prisoner – resulted in a back injury which has, six months later, left him with a permanent semi hunch.

It has also left him with chronic pain which he sees fit to treat not just with prescribed painkillers but any form of illegal substance he can get his hands on. If that means busting suspects on the street, but without arrest, or raiding the police evidence lock-up then so be it.

There's also a homicide investigation, the execution-style murders of five Senegalese illegals, but that seems to be of minor consideration for Herzog who is more interested in focusing on McDonagh as he spirals out of control. And Cage certainly gives him something to focus on, chewing scenery with mad-eyed abandon, so much so that most of the other cast (including Eva Mendes and Val Kilmer) barely register.

Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, as I understand (I've not seen it), has become somewhat of a cult classic; I have a feeling that Herzog's film will find a similar following. It wasn't released in cinemas in Australia but word of mouth, and some positive reviews overseas (Ebert thought Cage's performance was worthy of Oscar consideration) will have it discovered gradually.

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