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The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans (2009)

The only criminal he can't catch is himself.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 122 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

Probably one of the strangest moves oddball Werner Herzog has made is to make a movie that fits straight into a defined genre – The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans is a very American police thriller. And it stars Hollywood actors too! Herzog’s latest movie is a remake of sorts of Bad Lieutenant – a cult classic boasting an electrifying performance that, along with Reservoir Dogs, pulled Harvey Keitel out of his Eighties doldrums. I see parallels.

The Bad Lieutenant of the title is Terence McDonagh, a cop with a dodgy back and loose morals in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Tezza  is not one of those overused ‘dirty cops’ who throw the rulebook out of the window by shooting everyone and drinking a few too many light beers inbetween shifts, in the mould of Dirty Harry or John McClane. No, this cop-cum-criminal goes around taking every drug known to man, takes part in some seriously perverse acts, has a prostitute for a girlfriend (Mendes) and uses his position to get anything he wants. The plot takes a bit of a back seat to the study of the lead character’s evolving life but it generally follows Terence and his police squad (including Kilmer) on the hunt for the killer of a family of Senegalese immigrants and a gang of scary drugdealers.

Where TBL – PoC: NO (also the chemical symbol for sulphur dioxide) proves a raging success is in Herzog’s use of his trademark surreal humour. The unauthordox interrogation of a geriatric, drug-induced hallucinations and crazy one-liners and facial ticks from wild-eyed Nicholas Cage, who was just the man to pull it off, are both genuinely shocking and funny from start to finish. Nicholas Cage has big shoes to fill and almost matches Harvey Keitel with his performance as the Bad Lieutenant by showing a similar unhinged depravity, only falling short of Keitel’s commitment by failing to rock out with his cock out like his predecesor. Cage however, does bring a certain likeability and humour to the role that was slightly missing in the 1992 version. From his last few roles, Cage’s beginning to look back to his best at last and it’s nearly possible to believe that National Treasure never happened. Twice.

Eva Mendes is strong as Terence’s prostitute girlfriend but Kilmer (the former pretty boy now looking a little portly) seems a little unused, a bit like the post-Katrina setting. Also, sometimes the most far-fetched humorous asides do prove a little too odd – watch it and you will know what I mean.

It's Got: Herzog's trademark surrealism and humour, an excellent Nicholas Cage performance, plenty of iguanas.

It Needs: A little more Val Kilmer and more to be made of the setting.


Nicholas Cage is back on form with this impressive Herzog police thriller remake high on surreal humour and narcotics. Not one of Herzog’s best but a pleasing watch nonetheless.