Dir: Werner Herzog
The latest film from eccentric German director Werner Herzog fully lives up to his reputation for making movies which are, to put it lightly, unusual.
His tale of a crack-smoking copper on the trail of gangsters in post-Katrina New Orleans features two alligators, several luminous iguanas and a soul breakdancing its way into the afterlife.
Suffice to say, it is not the standard cop-with-issues thriller. If this description makes Bad Lieutenant sound weird, that’s because it is.
Misleadingly promoted as an edgy drama, it is better described as a black comedy – despite dealing unflinchingly with drug addiction and gang violence, it’s also one of the funniest movies of recent years.
Nicolas Cage shrewdly underplays the increasingly unhinged Terence, deadpanning his way through lines such as “What are these fuckin’ iguanas doing on my coffee table?” and looking as though the outlandish role is the most fun he’s had in years.
Eva Mendes gives the film valuable real-world grounding as Terence’s hooker love interest, as does Jennifer Coolidge as his alcoholic stepmother, but the rest is pure insanity.
Herzog is well-respected enough to go with his gut, and the result is a film unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Herzog starts out restrained, with Cage’s character injuring his back and becoming first a pill addict and then a cocaine fiend, but once he is finally on the trail of the murderers of a drug dealer’s family, he lets loose.
Terence is an outrageous character, yet even as he tears an oxygen tank from an old woman to extract information or coerces a cornered junkie into sex in front of her boyfriend’s eyes, we never stop liking him.
For this, the credit must go to Cage, finally getting back in tune with his quirky late 80s persona, and to Herzog, whose wildly original take on the “cop on a case” genre is impossible to ignore and impossible to forget.