Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Bad Lieutenant Port of Call:New Orleans"(2009)d/Werner Herzog

To compare tonight's entry to 1992's Bad Lieutenant,a perfectly twisted masterpiece by NYC's visionary genius Abel Ferrara,one of my favorite movies of the nineties(and one of late mother's favorites too.She'd regularly rock a Lieutenant t-shirt with pride.Old ladies walked out on a local screening at the Kirby Center upon release,and my old lady loved it.Ti amo sempre,mama.)with an amazingly over-the-top performance by Harvey Keitel,one of my favorite actors,would just be unfair to either vehicle.Expectedly,I balked at the thought of any sort of remake or sequel to such a bizarre cult classic,and stood my ground on the matter,even after hearing this particular film was to be helmed by Werner Herzog,another master of the medium who's nosebleed high on my favorite list.Ferrara,always the brashly opinionated rascal,said of the idea,"As far as remakes go, ... I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they're all in the same streetcar, and it blows up."Normally,I'm with you one hundred percent,Abel,but in this particular case,I really don't see Herzog's offering as a sequel or remake of your movie,despite the unfortunate title and vague similarities(massive amounts of on-screen drug usage,degenerate gambling,drug-induced hallucinations,etc)found therein.In fact,Herzog's movie will most likely achieve eventual cult status itself,and mostly on its own merit,though I can't imagine that Werner's claims to have never seen the original or heard of Ferrara have any basis in reality.Nic Cage turns in his most dynamically bananas performance since Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead(1999),proving he's capable of far more than big budgeted duds like Con Air,The Wicker Man remake, or National Treasure,which he'll probably be remembered for,sadly enough.Attn:Elitist cine-snobs(I know from experience,trust me),give Port of Call a screening,and see if you don't walk away thoroughly entertained by the wild experience.
"Cocaine a very powerful drug."-Rick James
Terrence McDonagh(Nicolas Cage) has just been promoted to lieutenant,after rescuing a prisoner(after scolding the shit out of him first) while cleaning out his locker after Hurricane Katrina,a stunt that has left the officer nursing a permanent back injury with Vicodin,marijuana,and cocaine(there's a homeopathic remedy I could get behind).Six months later,we see that McDonagh,who has been assigned to a multiple homicide of six illegal Senegalese immigrants,uses his badge to score drugs whenever he can,often sharing his controlled bounty with a prostitute named Frankie(Eva Mendes),who doubles as his girlfriend.When he's not scouring the N'awlins streets for clues to the murders,he's betting large with his bookie(Brad "Chucky" Douriff),bullying clubgoers for their drugs(and their dates for impromptu fuck sessions right out in the street),visiting his estranged father,a recovering alcoholic,and his stepmother(Jennifer "Stifler's mom" Coolidge),who's a full-blown beer-guzzling bloated piece of trash,and hallucinating his balls off,usually concerning iguanas.He throws his weight around when one of Frankie's clients spends their date physically abusing her,but when the john turns out to be mob tied,McDonagh is faced with another burgeoning debt and two days to pay it in full.He hooks up with a highway patrolwoman(Fairuza Balk)at the scene of an alligator/car accident,but proves to be completely uninterested in her sexual advances,wanting her to score him some drugs from her evidence room instead.
McDonagh(Nic Cage),banged out on drugs,pinches off an old lady's oxygen tube while poking his loaded burner in another's grillpiece.Pretty impressive.
When an auditory witness to the drug-related murders materializes in the form of a teenaged delivery boy who can bring down the chief suspect,a drug kingpin known as Big Fate(Xzibit),and his two associates,Midget and G(who's street nick brings the lieutenant to tears of laughter everytime he says it out loud),he takes the boy with him on his drug-soaked rounds,ultimately losing him in the process.When the boy's grandmother,a nursing home assistant,refuses to divulge his whereabouts,McDonagh pinches off her patient's oxygen tube while poking Granny in the puss with his loaded piece to get the answers he's looking for.After being delegated to the evidence room(what a slap on the wrist!)for his rough treatment of the seniors,the lieutenant joins forces with Big Fate,giving him the 4-1-1 on pending drug busts in return for cash to pay his bookie and uncut Peruvian fairy dust.To celebrate their new partnership,McDonagh urges Fate to smoke pure coke with him out of his "lucky crack pipe",before the mafiosi barge in,demanding their payment plus interest.The gangbangers shoot and kill the organized racketeers,the lieutenant plants the aforementioned pipe at the earlier murder scene,using dNa to tie Fate to his crimes,and his latest bet pays out big.When his partner(Val Kilmer)tries to shoot Fate on the spot,to avoid the criminal's escape from justice,McDonagh talks him down and cuffs the suspect,earning him another promotion,this time to Captain.A year later,with his parents and streetwalking girlfriend all enjoying sobriety,McDonagh is banged out on smack when he runs into the prisoner he originally rescued from the flood waters at the local aquarium.The ex-con claims to also have been sober for the past year,and offers to help the officer who saved his life in doing the same,to which McDonagh groggily asks,"Do fish have dreams?",as both men sit against one of the fish tanks.Crazy,man,crazy!
Would YOU be worried about scoring more drugs with Fairuza Balk alleycatting all over your pelvis in dirty hot boudoir gear?Me neither.
As of this writing,Port of Call remains a box office failure,some fifteen million short of its twenty-five million dollar budget,but the critics have been pretty positive about the experience,and I foresee the film gaining a large cult audience over time,despite its shortcomings.For those of you unaware of New German cinema pioneer(along with Fassbinder,Wenders),Werner Herzog,his work in films like Aguirre Wrath of God(1972),Signs of Life(1968),Nosferatu the Vampyre(1979),or Fitzcarraldo(1982) would all be good starting points for your collective woproscopes.He's certainly one of the all-time greats,bar none.Though Cage's best work seems to have come earlier in his career,in movies like Valley Girl,Rumble Fish,Rasing Arizona,Leaving Las Vegas,etc,he rises to the challenge in Port of Call and gives a pretty amazing performance,guaranteed to have you double taking at the screen more than once.Mendes co-starred in Ghost Rider with Cage,a screen adaption that fell flat in my opinion,and I read the comic book religiously back in the seventies.Among the producers for tonight's entry was Boaz Davidson,whose first American work(Last American Virgin) we covered towards the end of last year here at the Wop.As for the rating,I'd give Port of Call a perfect four wops,if it wasn't burdoned with such an unfortunate direct-to-video sounding title,but three solid wops is nothing to sneeze about,especially if you've got a half ounce of uncut llello sitting under your nostrils.Recommended.
I have moments like this every single day.


Gazer said...

Great review! I heartly agree. Both Bad Lieutenants are great movies and Herzog's one brings out a long missed wonderful performance by Nic Cage.

Only point of dissent: Nic's uncle is Coppola, not Scorsese.


beedubelhue said...

Thank you,man.I must've partied to Bad Lt. levels while writing that incorrect nugg of information.Damn you,Chernobyl spice cake,damn you straight to Hell.Thanks for the sober proofread,Gaze!


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