Distinguishing itself as both yet another showcase for Nicholas Cage’s great talent and how inconsistency can submerge a film to deleterious depths, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans is the “bad” cop movie that could have been. Embryonic after Terrence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) and Frankie Donnerfeld (Eva Mendes)’s characters are partially fleshed out (the most out of any of characters in the film), the film loses its way then finds it again, back and forth, to filled with languishing camera shots of reptiles and bloated with an unnecessarily long runtime.
Nicolas Cage’s dirty cop in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans has less pizzazz and flare than his similar, morally compromised Rick Santoro in De Palma’s Snake Eyes. Though equal in many of their personality traits, Santoro’s character structure was better actualized and McDonagh seems more like parts rather than a well-thought out whole.
As stiff and tortured as McDonagh’s body is, so are section of this film while others flow effortously as when McDonagh gets into the zone being a good cop (when the situation calls for it) or abusing his authority (when drug necessity takes over because of his permanently injured back or when he utilizes cowboy police tactics). One such scene evolves him pulling over a young couple after they exit a nightclub. Shaking a young couple down for drugs turns into a voyeuristic escapade where a rich socialite shows that a high-class exterior can encapsulate a lurid, slattern interior. The height of the scene is when McDonagh is asking Tina (Katie Chonacas) was she abused, et cetera in reference to why she does drugs and is doing something sordid in a parking lot with him, a compete stranger, to escape the blemish of a drug possession charge while the escalating anxiety of her boyfriend, Lawrence (Kyle Russell Clements), plays like a quickly conceived but effective comedy in the background.
Val Kilmer’s talent is completely under utilized in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans. He recites lines and adds star power to the film but never creates a memorable onscreen presence or character. The blame cannot be levied on him entirely since he has very little screen time in the film and his character was underwritten by screenwriter William Finkelstein.
There is casual disdain for criminal life that borders on the malicious throughout Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans but when viewed through the eyes of New Orleans cops that have seen everything (including the unimaginable: the city’s levies breaking, the city flooding with water, and dead body floating in the streets) and the depravity they view on a daily basis, this empathy deficiency becomes more understandable.
The ending to Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans is rapped in a big promenade of Hollywood ridiculousness that is completely unaligned with the rest of the film. In one scene, one after another of these instances occurs and the validity of the film goes down one after the other as well.
Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans is an over indulgent film in some instances, in need of trimming (which benefited Stone’s Alexander) and a keener editorial eye. Though good and even great in some moments of writing and Cage’s performance, they are not enough to carry the entire film through its elongated run time. While watching the film, the viewer might feel as though they are watching the extended or director’s cut of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans rather than the theatrical version.