Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call - New Orleans Review

The Film

Abel Ferrara's original Bad Lieutenant was a story of a lost soul looking for a redemption, someone who had thoroughly debased himself but believed in at least one good thing he could still do. Werner Herzog's similarly titled film, on review here, is far less sincere, far less theistic and much more fun. Herzog offers redemption via accident and impulse and debasement pretty much through the same route as well. The place where events conclude in both films is not dissimilar, but why they conclude as they do could not be more different.
Nicolas Cage is Terence McDonagh, a Miami cop who has become injured through a rare act of decency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Dependent on increasing pain medication, McDonagh starts to chase any opiates he can get his hands on and is soon drug addled and compromised by his own addiction and relationship with high class hooker Eva Mendes. In over his head to gangs and the mob and succumbing to hallucination and addiction like his father before him, McDonagh seems to be digging his own grave.

One of the joys of Herzog's peculiar take on humanity is his passion for the extraordinary and the counter intuitive. Conventional morality and cinematic tradition might require this tale to resolve itself as a conversion to the ways of righteousness or an inevitable fate of punishment, yet the director frustrates simple linear takes on the story he tells because of his own unreliable nature. Herzog makes it impossible to conclude too much about McDonagh's character after witnessing his journey here and the deliberately cyclical scenes of this Bad Lieutenant being decorated for his "heroic efforts" are brilliantly ironic.
Herzog, very much like Cage's performance here, is iconolastic par excellence. Truth, virtue, beauty, fairness - all these qualities are not as important as the black humour, the luck, the inexplicable passage of events and the nonsense of it all in the world of Bad Lieutenant. It is not exactly hedonistic, yet the film veers close to nihilism in a noirish, everything is fucked kind of way.

Bad Lieutenant is Lynchian at times with its hallucinations and mannered acting, but like the best of Herzog's work it is a unity of a supremely individualistic director and a passionately unique actor. Cage's schtick can seem unwelcome or worn in recent years, but here he has found a beautiful monster to inhabit something that he does with a sincerity and a sympathy that few performers can match. Herzog follows him and the collaboration of his peculiar vision and Cage's singular expression is perfectly matched.
This is an oddball, how in the world did it get made in the good old USA, type of film. It is also pretty wonderful for the antithesis of artistic vision it presents to the Ferrara film. You will be appalled, you will be entertained and I will be very surprised if you feel you understand more about this old world of ours by the end of it. It is the darkest of comedies and the noirest of noirs, it is superbly and genuinely unique.

Tech Specs

The main feature takes up 26.2GB on this 70% used BD50, and the frame-rate on the transfer is 23.98 per second. A single master audio track is offered for the film with parts in Spanish but predominantly in English and this does plenty in the way of adding to the ambience especially where the music heightens the surreal quality of some of the action. It's atmospheric rather than particularly active across the channnels and offers plenty of clarity and balance in managing effects, dialogue and music.
The transfer is sharp, detailed and reproduces the bluish hue of the film well whilst maintaining the hot skintones expected of the setting. Edges are always clean and natural, contrast is nigh perfect, and grain is natural and slight. This blu-ray presentation sounds and looks very good.


There are six high def interviews of the main cast, the director and the writer included along with a making of piece. Herzog, as is well known, is laconic, controlling and quite crazy and he explains why he wanted to make a new kind of film noir and directed Cage to enjoy the "bliss of being bad". Cage's interview talks about "de-programming the Judeo-Christian contrast" from Ferrara's original and feels very like there is a warm bong just out of shot throughout. Most of the interviews are shot on set, and the off centre nature of most of the individual performers affirms why this is such a particular film.

The making of is an interesting diary kind of deal going through the shooting with plenty of access to Herzog and his DP. Some of the interviews from earlier are chopped into the mix and the emphasis is given to partnerships rather than auteuristic vision when Cage and Herzog discuss the project.

No trailers are offered and a simple DVD style menu makes navigation easy.


A really sublime piece of film-making given an effective high def presentation.

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