Bad Lieutenant Is Terribly Fantastic

Cage's unhinged performance dazzles, and Herzog keeps up
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2009 12:02 PM CST

(Newser) – What is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, exactly? Most critics haven't the foggiest, but they like Werner Herzog's not-at-all-a-remake and Nicholas Cage's performance. Some reactions:

  • Cage’s “sublimely deranged lead performance” compares favorably to Herzog’s work with Klaus Kinski, Scottt Tobias writes for the Onion AV Club. Sure, “it’s not always easy to sort out the legitimately inspired touches from the merely campy ones, but the film has a deranged, go-for-broke spirit that makes such distinctions irrelevant.”

  • Cage's performance "requires adjectives as yet uncoined," AO Scott writes in the New York Times, but he'll try: "Sometimes his loose-limbed shuffle and sibilant drawl suggest Jimmy Stewart as a crackhead. (Is there any other movie actor who can summon such a phrase to mind?)"
  • Armond White applauds the film for engaging the "psychosis haunting New Orleans that no Hurricane Katrina doc has dared show." But for the quintessential "bizarre, disorienting satire of action-movie ruthlessness," he writes in the New York Press, he prefers (really) Crank 2.
  • Bad Lieutenant is "is less like a movie than an interpretive-dance piece, with Cage as its lurching, depressed-satyr star," Stephanie Zacharek writes for Salon. And Herzog's "purposeful, mannered ineptitude" is ultimately winning.