There are few things more entertaining than watching Nicolas Cage go bug-fuck in a movie that knows how to present the spectacle in style. To my list of fave Cage meltdowns — Vampire’s Kiss, Wild at Heart and Face/Off — add this bad boy from director Werner Herzog, no stranger to diving off deep ends.
Let me interrupt this review to state that any resemblance between this Bad Lieutenant and the 1992 Abel Ferrara landmark is purely in the head of the dude who thought up the title. Cage plays a junkie cop, just like Harvey Keitel did in the first one. End of similarity. As Cage’s Lieutenant Terence McDonagh roams the Katrina-ravaged Big Easy (Keitel’s beat was New York), Herzog doesn’t so much direct him as hit his detonator. The reliably flamboyant Val Kilmer as Terry’s corrupt partner seems to be underacting, which will give you some idea of the crazy heat Cage generates. The script, by William Finkelstein, has something to do with drug kingpin Big Fate (Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner) and Terry’s romance with Frankie (Eva Mendes), a hooker who finds religion. What I couldn’t find in the plot was a trace of logic. But there’s Cage, clapping his hands like a mad hatter, chatting to himself with crazed glee, and shaking down a couple in an alley by confiscating the guy’s drugs, pushing his date against the wall, lifting her short skirt and fucking her in a fury. Herzog seemingly explains all this by inserting detailed close-ups of iguanas and gators. Is redemption possible for this bad lieutenant? At one point, he orders that a dead man be shot again because “his soul is still dancing.” If you find God in that line, then welcome to your movie heaven.