"All’s Well That Ends Well?"
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS is an ironic experiment that doesn’t quite work, despite some quirky redemptive moments, especially at the beginning and very end. Those moments bookend what is a sordid tale, with a strange performance from Nicolas Cage that varies from very bad to very good.
Cage plays Lieutenant Terence McDonagh, who’s working homicide in New Orleans six months after Hurricane Katrina. When Katrina struck, the Lieutenant took pity on a prisoner trapped in a cell full of water when the prisoner started praying to Jesus. Now, however, McDonagh has to medicate severe back pain with prescription drugs and, unknown to his boss, cocaine. Also unknown to his boss, McDonagh is involved with a beautiful prostitute, played by Eva Mendes, while, on the side, he owes a couple thousand dollars to his bookie.
McDonagh and his men begin working on a case where a drug boss murdered five illegal immigrants from Africa, including two children, because one of the immigrants tried to cut in on his territory. A teenage delivery boy’s testimony is the only evidence against the crime boss, but McDonagh loses the boy when he left him alone for a couple minutes with his prostitute girlfriend. Then, McDonagh loses another $3,000 to his bookie. One of his girlfriend’s clients has sent some goons to strong arm them for $50,000 because McDonagh routed the client after he beat her.
Angry at the witness for leaving him in the lurch, a doped up McDonagh threatens the boy’s grandmother and the elderly woman who’s paying the grandmother to fix her hair. The elderly woman turns out to have a congressman for a grandson, however. So, the internal affairs department removes him from active duty and puts him at work in the property room while they investigate the woman’s complaint.
Suddenly, McDonagh sees a way out of his money woes. He decides to inform the drug boss about the plans of the narcotics cops who drop off confiscated drugs at the property room. McDonagh’s plans go south when the goons from his girlfriend’s disgruntled client show up at the residence of the drug boss while McDonagh’s collecting a big payoff. Always thinking, McDonagh sees a way to kill two birds with one stone, and solve all his problems, including perhaps his drug addiction.
BAD LIEUTENANT is a high ironic story where the hero succeeds by a quirk of fate. Until that happens, however, the movie is very uneven. The biggest problem is Nicolas Cage’s wacky performance, which ranges from bizarre and unconvincing to very good and sometimes compelling.
The most interesting aspects, however, are the Christian references in the beginning and ending of the movie. In the opening scene, Cage’s character saves a prisoner because the prisoner started to pray. In the final two scenes, the prisoner, now out on probation, stops Cage from starting to snort cocaine again while, eventually, the soundtrack starts playing the great Gospel hymn, “A Closer Walk with Thee.”
These positive Christian references are supported by another event that occurs in the movie. At one point, Cage’s character hides his girlfriend at his father’s place to protect her from the goons her client sent after her. His father, an alcoholic, has just started attending AA recovery meetings again. Later, Cage’s character learns his father started taking Cage’s girlfriend to his AA meetings, and, eventually, she signs herself into rehab and straightens herself out. In fact, near the end, Cage’s character, his girlfriend, his father, and the father’s wife are sitting around a table and it appears that all have recovered from their addictions.
Thus, BAD LIETUENANT ends on some positive moral and spiritually uplifting notes, even though the very end is a bit too subtle and not as strong as it could have been.
That said, the drug use in this movie is virtually constant and excessive, despite the movie’s ultimate endorsement of Alcoholics Anonymous and drug rehab treatment. BAD LIETENANT also contains abundant foul language, some strong violence, strong sexual content, and brief partial nudity.
(C, B, PaPaPa, LLL, VV, SS, NN, AA, DDD, MMM) Light Christian, redemptive, moral worldview with an endorsement of Alcoholics Anonymous and drug rehab treatments, a man praying to Jesus in a crucial scene, and a Christian hymn is briefly heard in the very last scene, but with a lot of very strong immoral pagan content, including substance abuse, criminality, police corruption, hedonism, and extortion, during much of the story, and the positive worldview should and could have been more clear, stronger, more prevalent, and more transformational; at least 133 mostly strong obscenities (mostly “f” words), one strong profanity, and two light profanities; strong but brief violence or violent images includes a gunfight in a room, man arrested at gunpoint, two men shoved against a wall by policeman, man threatens civilians with gun, man cuts off elderly woman’s oxygen to get information, and some slightly bloody images of people who have been shot dead; depicted fornication in one scene, woman in bra and underwear climbs on top of fully clothed man in bed but leaves, references to protagonist’s girlfriend being a prostitute, and brief crude sexual comments; rear female nudity in one depicted sex scene, partial female nudity as man sifts through softcore photos of another man’s wife kept in a locker, and woman in bra and panties in one scene; alcohol use and drunkenness; very strong drug abuse includes brief cigarette smoking, marijuana use, frequent cocaine use, crack cocaine use, and drug sales occur; and, lying, corruption, evidence planted, stealing drugs from people and police property room, and gambling.
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS stars Nicolas Cage. He plays Terry, a police detective in New Orleans with a painful bad back, an addiction to prescription drugs and cocaine, and a prostitute girlfriend named Frankie. Terry leads an investigation into the execution murder of five people, including two children, because one of the dead men encroached on the territory of another drug dealer. Meanwhile, Terry owes thousands of dollars to his bookie and to gangsters sent from one of Frankie’s clients upset because Terry stopped him from beating her. When Terry gets rough with the wrong person, he is sent to work in the police property room. There, he finds a way out of his money woes.
BAD LIEUTENANT is a high ironic story where the anti-hero succeeds by a quirk of fate. Until that happens, the movie is very uneven. The biggest problem is Nicolas Cage’s wacky performance, which ranges from unconvincing to sometimes compelling. The movie contains a light Christian worldview endorsing Alcoholics Anonymous and drug rehab, but it is marred by excessive drug abuse, abundant foul language, strong violence, and brief lewd content.