Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Nicholas Cage Redemption - Bad Lieutenant

I have a love/hate relationship with Nicholas Cage.  I bet most of you do too.  When he's good (Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas, Matchstick Men, Kick-Ass) he's amazing.  When he's bad (National Treasure, The Weather Man, Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous) he's awful.  And sometimes when he's bad he's amazing!  Con Air and Face Off for example.

I saw Bad Lieutenant a couple of weeks ago.
I have a bad habit of assuming whether or not I'll like a film before I see it but in this case I had no idea.  All of my Werner Herzog knowledge comes from reading or hearing stories about him from other people.  This is the first of his films I've seen.  I'm going to have to do something about that!

Spoilers ahead...but the film's been out for a while so we should be ok.

Ostensibly a remake of the 1992 film by Abel Ferrara, the film tells the story of Det. Terrance McDonagh who injures his back saving an inmate from a flooded New Orleans prison.  He is left with crippling pain and a really serious addiction to drugs.  Any drug.  Seriously...everything.

He becomes obsessed with solving the case of a family from Senegal who are murdered.  McDonagh uses more and more unorthodox methods to solve the case; falling deeper and deeper into debt and danger.

Cage is amazing.  I have read so many reviews where people slate his performance but I really think he's excellent.  He lets go just enough to make the part his own, but not so much that he becomes a caricature.  It's the distinctive Herzog touches that have received the most column inches though.  We experience some of the action from the point of view of iguanas and alligators.  They show up when McDonagh is hallucinating and edgy.  It's weird, but it works.

The cast are excellent too, with some actors that I always like, but don't often see.  Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif, Shaun Hatosy, Jennifer Coolidge, Fairuza Balk and Michael Shannon all appear in small but memorable roles.  Eva Mendes is at her best here too, as McDonagh's prostitute girlfriend Frankie.

The film is so demented, it can be enjoyed on a purely surface level.  On another level it can be interpreted in any number of ways.  Is it about self-abuse, right and wrong, an allegory for America and how it handles national traged, and what is the ending about?  All this is up to the individual to puzzle and ponder.  Pondering is fun...

So I loved it... here are 2 scenes that sum up the tone of the film.  The first, Cage's best moment. (Why the razor?!)

The second, a distinctive Herzog flourish of weird...with amazing music!

What are your favorite Nic Cage performances?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Also, if you've seen the film...what did you think of the ending?  There are a few different interpretations, it'd be good to know which is the most popular.


TheUnwashedMass said...

Best Cage performance:


Jess said...

Totally forgot about that one.

Chris David Richards said...

I've always liked The Family Man. A good Nicholas Cage film that doesn't really get mentioned.