The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

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

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When I reviewed the Abel Ferrara/Harvey Keitel Bad Lieutenant back in August of 2008, this newer Werner Herzog directed film starring Nicolas Cage was still in development. I ended up missing it when it played at our local indie theater, but luckily Netflix shipped it out to me the day it was released on DVD. Netflix rules! And just in time for our Wild Card post this week.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-- New Orleans isn't quite the movie the other Bad Lieutenant was. Both had drug addicted police lieutenants that get in over their heads with gambling debts and what not, but that's where the similarities end. In this one, Nicloas Cage plays a cop who injures his back saving a criminal from a flooded holding cell during the aftermath of Katrina. He's promoted to lieutenant for his sacrifice, but is also prescribed a cocktail of pain relievers, which leads him down the primrose path to addiction. As his myriad ways of obtaining drugs start to catch up with him and the net is closing in, he finds an unlikely ally in the crime lord he'd been trying to take down for the slaying of a family of five.

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I liked this, I don't know if I'd say a lot, but I liked it. There were scenes and images I liked a lot, but the film as a whole had some issues. The end was kind of odd to me, for one thing. Obviously I can't get into that without giving the film away, so maybe someone else who's seen it can either back me up or tell me I'm crazy. Herzog's direction really worked, and he and Cage had a great actor/director chemistry. I'm not sure I can choose between this one or the Ferrara/Keitel one either, because they're so different. While Ferrara's direction made me think of French New Wave, Herzog's made me think of... well... Herzog. A better script would have made it great.

One thing I can say about this, is it's worth ten National Treasures in artistic merit, but it's not worth a hundredth of a National Treasure in terms of earning potential. I think that's why it's so hard to judge Nicolas Cage based on The Weather Man or Knowing, because those sacks of asscrack pay the bills; and if we're realistic, take a lot less work to accomplish as an actor than Bad Lieutenant: PC-NO. A lot of my friends say to me all the time how they can't stand Cage, and I used to agree, until I revisited Leaving Las Vegas last fall, and was reminded of what made Cage great. His role here will remind you again.

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Klaus Kinski is a member of our DTVC Hall of Fame, and though we've left him for a bit to look at other actors, it's important to bring him up if we're talking about Werner Herzog. Are they the best actor/director pairing of all time? I think some much better cases could be made for Kurosawa/Mifune or Scorsese/De Niro, so probably no. Are they the most intriguing pair of all time? I think you could look at the five films they've done together and answer yes. But it wasn't really those films I had in my mind as I watched this, it was another of Herzog's: a documentary called Grizzley Man. It was just this window into how Herzog sees the world, and puts a film like Bad Lieutenant: PC-NO into perspective-- this idea that the wild is vicious and deadly, and humans that veer too far in that direction face dire consequences. I was kind of upset, because there are some scenes in the film (again, I won't give them away) that I would've liked to known Herzog's thought process on, but this DVD didn't have any director's commentary-- it didn't have any commentary for that matter.

One thing evident in the Kinski/Herzog films though, is that it's Herzog who gets Kinski, not the other way around-- I can't imagine Kinski would've cared to get Herzog, or anyone else for that matter. In Bad Lieutenant: PC-NO, something different happens: Cage seems to get what Herzog is about, and he works in that realm. It makes this a very different film from those other five. There wasn't that sense of struggle, and I think Herzog needs that when he works. Again, there was no commentary, but I can't imagine Cage was giving him anywhere near the hard time Kinski always did; and oddly enough, I think that harmony affected the film. Herzog tried to convey conflict on the screen in a variety of ways, but I'm not so sure it's something that can always be manufactured if the feeling off set is too harmonious.

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Finally, you'd think with Eva Mendes in the film, it would be her that I'm talking about as the hottest chick in the film, and though she was hot, it was Fairuza Balk in only one scene who stood out. This is one area where a foreign director who lives by his own rules like Herzog can really turn some of our preconceived notions upside-down. The average American director looks to Balk for their goth chick or scary chick. Herzog saw something else, and he went with it, resulting in this scene where Balk's character thinks she's going to have sex with Cage, is seductively crawling over him in bed in her underwear and police boots, only to find out he's too wasted and is only there with her to find out how she can get him drugs from the Louisiana Highway Patrol evidence locker. Without her being as hot as she is in that scene, we have no idea how far gone Cage is, and it all works perfectly.

I think most of my readers would enjoy this. Best way to know: if you hated National Treasure, you'll like Bad Lieutenant: PC-NO. I also think, if you're a big fan of the Ferrara/Keitel version, you should watch this. It's no cheap knock off, this is it's own movie, and it's interesting to compare the two. If I was going to pick, I'd say the earlier one is the more complete film, making it better in my eyes.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1095217/

11 comments:

  1. Sounds pretty interesting, i'll definitely check this one out, oh and about the ending, most reviews i've read say that the ending is supposed to be "tongue-in-cheek" or something like that. ALso I never got why everyone hates on Cage, yeah he's been in some shitty films like The Family Man, Knowing and The Wicker Man remake(which one of the WORST remakes of all time IMO, also for the record I didn't hate the National Treausre films THAT much, I found them at least tolerable compared to the other aforementoned films)but he somehow always manages to compell no matter how bad of a film he's in. Cage has certainly been busy lately as he's in Kick Ass, Sorcerer's Apprentice and Season Of The Witch this year. If there's one actor I hate with a passion it's Hugh fucking Grant! Why people love him so much I will never understand, he just irritates the living hell out of me and I feel like strangling him everytime he opens his goddamn mouth! Also one last question. Do you plan on seeing and reviewing Kick-Ass?

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  2. I loved it. Like this was vintage Cage craziness and really with that said it was recommended. Add in Val Kilmer,Brad Dourif, Jennifer Coolidge,Faruza Balk and a superhot Eva Mendez (Balk was hot but Mendez was sexier, Although i think Balk and Mendez should've switched parts.) You really can't go wrong with such.

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  3. I don't know if I'd say Cage always manages to compell no matter what film he's in, but he has the ability to compell given the right film, definitely. I don't really have any plans to see Kick Ass.

    As far as the ending goes, like I said, I don't want to give it away, but it just didn't work for me, no matter what they were going for with it. I will say, Michael, that I think you may need to see someone about your Hugh Grant issues. All the guy does is act in movies. As far as I know, he doesn't run a sweatshop, isn't a dictator responsible for killing thousands of political prisoners, nor is he a Nazi sympathizer. I mean, I'm not a big Sean Hannity fan, but he doesn't evoke violent fantasies in me when he opens his mouth. Let me recommend eating more bananas-- they have a natural calming element in them.

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  4. See, I think your opinion on Balk and Mendes switching parts is exactly what I'm saying about Herzog thinking outside the box as far as Balk goes. Did I forget to mention Val Kilmer is in the movie? I didn't even tag him. I know there's a pic of him on the image page, but thanks for picking me up on that one.

    And I would say that for most you can't go wrong, but this isn't a film for anyone. Again, it's all about the National Treasure test.

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  5. No I don't have "issues" It should've been pretty damn obvious that I was just exaggerating. But seriously i just can't stand Grant annd I have no clue what people see in him besides his looks.

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  6. I though this was the most brilliant movie I saw last year. A lot of the crowd @ the Alamo Drafthouse didn't really "get it", but those who did just went along with the insanity, and that's why it worked so well for me.

    I think script-wise, Herzog knew he was dealing with some pretty mediocre fare, so he and Cage went all out in the more brilliant scenes. The material could've been pedestrian and it shows through, the performances not withstanding. The ending, I conclude, was pretty tongue-in-cheek in keeping with the dark sense of humor of herr director, but I think on the page it was probably meant to be the typical hollywood ending... I doubt Avi Lerner or Millenium films would appreciate the nuances and twists Herzog gave the movie (Cage's ridiculous faces, "Do fish dream, his unexplained Marlon Brando accent halfway through, dead alligator,etc...), but they probably didn't "get" that Cage and Herzog were fucking with the audience most of the film. Great review, btw... "Shoot him again, his soul is dancing." And of course, my favorite: "my friend is fish. he live in my room. his fin is a cloud.he see me when I sleep" Amazing. :)

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  7. And, just adding my two cents here, Faruza Balk is ALWAYS hotter than any other chick in any movie she's in... This one esp. with her little uniform. Go my stereotypical goth chick!

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  8. I liked this too, I just can see how it's not for everybody. The ending to me just made it not a complete movie, I guess, which was my one complaint.

    The one thing about Balk in most roles is she isn't just a hot goth chick, she's usually painted as a psycho; and here she was just a straight up hottie, and I loved that Herzog went for that. Most American film makers would've gone with the producer's model girlfriend for that scene, providing she had a SAG card; so not only did Herzog go against the grain, to pick Balk was a stroke of genius that worked.

    The "My friend is a fish" part reminded me of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, with the one sentence chapter "My mom is a fish."

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  9. I think most people's problems with Cage come from his pre-Academy Award career vs. his post-Academy Award career. He picked all kinds of interesting roles leading up to and including LEAVING LAS VEGAS (RAISING ARIZONA, RUMBLE FISH, WILD AT HEART, VAMPIRE'S KISS) and then started doing all kinds of paycheck films after he won the Oscar. His decision-making process seemed to fly out the window and he pissed away so much good will he had earned up to that point. Now, with a Cage film it really is buyer beware 'cos you just don't know what kind of film yer gonna get.

    That being said, I actually really liked KNOWING (a thinking man's disaster film) and am looking forward to this BAD LT. film if only because it looks like Cage is channeling some of the Gonzo spirit from his VAMPIRE'S KISS days.

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  10. Gonzo is a great way to describe Cage in BL:PC-NO. Think him in Leaving Las Vegas, but with more Hunter S. Thompson and less tragedy.

    I really don't begrudge Cage doing as much crap as possible to pick up a paycheck, because often, those paychecks are substantial. What I'm hoping is, with enough money in the bank, we'll get more of these and less crap like Next... though I see a new National Treasure is in development...

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  11. This movie was not for me at all I could barely make it through the whole thing. I was shocked to see you didn't have reviews for Vampire's Kiss or Deadfall, have you seen them? True gems!

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