... or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying and Love Nic Cage.
I have to first point out, no doubt to gasps of 'say it ain't so', that I haven't seen the "original". I don't mind, that puts me in good company, neither did Werner Herzog, apparently. I therefor have no idea what this is in relation to the Harvey Keitel/Abel Ferrara film, whether it's a remake, a re-working, a sequel or just a totally new film with slightly similar subject matter that takes part of the name of the other movie so as not to be labelled as a rip-off.
This seems to be a reoccurring situation lately where films that bare only a passing resemblance to the first films use the same name or call themselves 'remakes' so they don't get criticised for being rip-offs.
From everything I have read about the original this is not a straight remake in any sense of the word but I am sure that hasn't stopped people like me on other blogs getting their knickers in a twist about it and rightfully so, where would the world be without the counter argument (a decidedly more peaceful but less 'free' place I am sure, but that's beside the point), however as I have not seen it, this is the last we'll talk of it.
Now down to this laugh riot of a film which is just another stitch in the rich, bizarre tapestry of the utterly ridiculous, gloriously madcap, train-wreck of Nic Cage, who seems to be an industry all of his very own lately, who for the last 5 years has averaged a total of 3 films and 7 wigs a year completely inexplicably and apparently without effort and who seems to bare no relation or comparison to any other actor, although Johnny Depp may one day get there.
Every 6 months or so he looks in danger of going actually insane, painting himself purple, singing Elvis tunes whilst spinning his utterly random toupee collection on the top of vast, electronic, shiny gold, shrunken-headed statues of himself whilst evading the IRS and seemingly never saying no to any script ever even when the end result would either be totally bonkers or so bad he may as well take a guest spot as a host on Family Feud and remove his testicles live on air in front of some children with a potato peeler!
Yet despite his apparent continuing decent into public looniness he continues to get work and continues to be an unexpected, strange, thoroughly hammy yet fiercely dedicated actor on some personal and unexplained mission to bring the world weird, wonderful and often dreadful films it never knew it needed and he seems to have a tremendous sense of humour about himself, all of which has left him laughing all the way to the bank (but without fully disclosing that fact to the American tax authorities apparently...)
I have decided that enough is enough, Nic Cage is beyond criticism, he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and it's ok by me. He is obviously having a complete and total ball and while I obviously prefer his Wild at Heart/Leaving Las Vegas/Adaption type work, I love "Con Air" and "The Rock", actually thought "Next" was pretty watchable, time-wasting action nonsense and everything right up until the sickening religious, I have to go home and take a shower now, ending of "Knowing" was pretty good too, even if I did leave the cinema wanting to find the director/writer of that film and disembowel him.
So, if you liked his more indie spirited but just as mental past work, you will love Bad Lieutenant. It's not exactly Cage turned up to 11, that may be too much for the world to handle and it's not quite as strange or alarming as it desperately thinks it is but this film is a thoroughly watchable, hilarious take on the whole dirty cop storyline. I just wouldn't expect to learn anything by the end of it or find any hidden message or philosophy because this is all just style; cold, tasty, Englebert Humperdink singing iguana, crazy and floaty style. If there is advice I can give you going in it is 'Just.Go.With.It' This is a Nic Cage picture not high art don't be fooled into thinking everything has to have a point beyond sheer mind bending comedy. It is a Tex Avery cartoon in the flesh, an episode of Roadrunner with Cage as the ever suffering but constantly trying Wile.E.Coyote, just sit back and enjoy it for sheer entertainments sake, occasionally mutter 'oh hasn't Val Kilmer put on weight' and 'what the f?' and you'll be just fine.
When you talk about director/actor teams you wonder how this hasn't come up before, if you thought Lynch and Cage was obvious then think again because Cage and Herzog are a match made in... well... a basement jelly wrestling session between an alligator and a baboon presided over by WC Fields and Ted Dansen.
Werner Herzog, the fantastically, side-splittingly bonkers Bavarian who has pulled a boat over a mountain, eaten his own shoe, continued with an interview with Mark Kermode while under gun fire and whose voice I could listen to for an eternity as long as it was spouting oddball stuff like
"Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs"
is a tremendous human being who radiates a sort of zen calm but you get the impression that behind his eyes are a hundred and one midgets riding pigs, dueling with artichokes over who gets to do the washing up of his dreams.
Well it's that sort of man that I want to see working with Nic Cage and if this film could've done with anything it would have been one of his marvelous Herzog voice overs describing in lofty detail the characters descent into addiction and redemption using a series of ever increasingly confusing animal based metaphors. What we get though is a standard police drama that's a bit like a deranged episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets with momentary surreal flights of fancy, set in a post-katrina, bleak New Orleans, with grainy and muted cinematography, fantastically grounded, well played and enjoyable performances all round from the supporting cast and an obvious and knowingly unhinged demonstration of Nic Cage's many and varied famous impressions, from Jimmy Stewart, through Elvis and Godzilla to James Cagney, that all actually sound like a moderately drunk Nic Cage.
Naysayers could go on about how obvious he is being, how much he seems to want the camera to look at him and be amazed, how this is schtick he's done before and how none of it means anything or makes any sense and in a way they'd be right, they'd be missing the entire point and would be excessively boring but yes there's an element of trying too hard in Cage's floundering about and gurning. However and I am sorry to break the illusion, that is something that could be said of and leveled at every actor working in film and actually, that's what I want from my Nic Cage, just wind up the spinning top, stand back and watch it go.
While I have read others who say that Herzog's occasional slips into the world of the weird, like the view points of various reptiles in the film and the break dancing spirit scene, detracted and jarred with the films narrative I actually thought it could've done with more things like that and at least that would mean, for all you doom merchants, it wouldn't jar so much if it was consistent! I wanted Fear & Loathing in New Orleans with Nic Cage and there are certainly moments where it flirts with that idea and comes close but like I said before, despite being a hoot and a pleasingly nutty ride, it is not nearly as wild and crazy a guy as it thinks it is.
I enjoyed it and would probably watch it again but ultimately and unlike the film of Fear & Loathing, it is a throw away knockabout nonsense piece of film-making with the redeeming feature that it taught me to shut up and just appreciate that Nic Cage and his family of hair pieces is out there dancing wildly against the moon having lost the keys to his giant, castle-shaped house.
7.5 out of 10 Iguana tail soups served with face of donkey and a side order of confusion