The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans -2009-

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Directed by Werner Herzog. 122 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre)

I love Port of Call so much that this will resemble a gush far more than it will a review. Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog may be the greatest actor/director collaboration since Emily Watson starred in Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Cage turns in perfectly psychotic performance as Lieutenant Terrance McDonough, placing him right alongside Michael Corleone and Travis Bickle as a great American antihero. In spite of his latter-career focus on documentaries, Herzog hasn’t lost a step when it comes to narrative filmmaking. I’d say that Port of Call is the director’s best dramatic film since Fitzcarraldo.

Herzog wisely skips over the played out Mardi Gras and bayou bullshit that saturates most New Orleans based films, opting instead to show a grittier, post-Katrina side of the city (Andrew Dominik chose a similar approach while making Killing Them Softly). The film is a sincere character study of McDonough as he balances his addiction and corruption with his cases and personal life, but we know better than to think Herzog would make just any old cop-on-the-edge flick. And as always (with the exception of his documentary Wheel of Time), Herr Herzog does not disappoint.

Despite its dark marketing campaign and grim plot, Port of Call is a work of comic genius. McDonough never runs out of hilarious and clever ways to score drugs, make quick cash, and advance his investigation. Nearly every scene is memorable, and the reptile close-ups are Herzog at his head-scratching best. And the ending, with its rapid-fire plot resolutions, is beautifully implausible.

Aside: While the supporting cast is good all-around, a nearly-unrecognizable Jennifer Coolidge is especially impressive.

Aside: The screening preceded a discussion and Q&A with both Cage and Herzog, and it was as beautiful as you can imagine.

(Seen and written on 2014-04-04)

Stolen -2012-

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Directed by Simon West . 96 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes, for Cage-aholics. (Watched on DVD)

 If you’re asking yourself, “Why would Patrick waste his immeasurably valuable time watching a movie like Stolen?” then you can move right along. You aren’t in the movie’s demographic, and there’s nothing for you here.

 Allow me to clarify. Being a Nicolas Cage fan is a lot like being a long-term junkie. It starts off wonderful (Fast Times, Rumble Fish, Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, Red Rock West, Leaving Las Vegas), and then the tolerance builds up. Occasionally you experience the euphoria that hooked you (Bringing Out the Dead, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), but most of it leaves you feeling disgusted with yourself (Windtalkers, The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Season of the Witch). But does that deter the Cage-aholic? Of course not – like a junkie, he or she becomes far less picky about the quality of the product. At this point, one watches Nicolas Cage films not to feel good, but to get well.

 Are far as recent New Orleans-based Nic flicks go, Stolen stands head and shoulders above 2011’s Seeking Justice. (Aside: When a movie takes place in New Orleans, it must, must take place during Mardi Gras. I thinks the FCC mandates it or something). In usually Millennium Productions fashion, the film places name-recognition above all else, featuring the likes of Malin Åkerman, Danny Houston, and Josh Lucas as a one-legged Travis Bickle wannabe.

 Still, the film has such a high “Nic Cage loses his shit” content that is kept my attention. If you ever wanted to see Cage intentionally break his own thumb or yell “NO I WASN’T LISTENING TO CCR!” then this is the film for you.

 – What’s the deal with the film’s score? It reminded me of the theme tune to the cartoon The Tick, and in no way fits the movie.

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-04-01)