This “remake,” which shares only the plot of a misbehaving police officer with its predecessor, is a fascinating slow-burn drama and an unflinching character piece about a character that is frankly hard to watch but nonetheless interesting. The subject matter may not be appealing to everyone, but I defy anybody to not be drawn in to the film and invested in the character as his vices start taking over and the movie progresses.
As I’ve said before in other reviews, I dig Nicolas Cage as an actor. Even when he’s in utter garbage, you can see he’s always got a unique process to each role and never phones it in. Thankfully there’s no need for apologies with BAD LIEUTENANT; Cage is incredible as crazed officer Terence McDonough, putting in probably his best performance since ADAPTATION. The man is seriously unhinged here, providing ample room for Cage to revel in the quirky, offbeat roles he excels in. Whether it’s off-kilter lines like “I’ll kill you all to the break of dawn” or “Keep shooting! His soul’s still dancing!”, Cage manages to pull it off and create a fair amount of sympathy in the character.
And as his behavior gets crazier (along with his accent, a nice touch) and the lieutenant starts staring down iguanas, fixing football games, helping drug dealers and murderers, and assaulting elderly ladies (this is obviously the feel good movie of the year), Herzog and Cage both do something remarkable with the film’s unique tone. Despite the material, the movie is never really overly serious and manages to stay playful and light, but not slight. It’s hard to describe, but it’s serious enough to be involving and lighthearted enough to not be disgusted by the main character’s behavior. Thankfully Cage has help from a surprising supporting cast, including his GHOST RIDER costar Eva Mendes, rapper Xzibit, quick turns by Fairuza Balk and the always welcome Val Kilmer, and even Stifler’s mom Jennifer Coolidge in a surprising dramatic role. But BAD LIEUTENANT is absolutely Herzog and Cage’s baby and it represents them both in top form.
A Photo Gallery from Werner’s wife Lena Herzog and a Trailer.
Extra Tidbit: My favorite stories involving Werner Herzog have to be him getting randomly shot during an interview and finishing it before seeking medical attention, as well as the incident in which Herzog randomly appeared out of nowhere to save Joaquin Phoenix from a deadly car accident. Both true, look ‘em up.