Complete A-Z list

Bad Lieutenant, The: Port of Call New Orleans


Stars: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Shawn Hatosy, Fairuza Balk, Val Kilmer, Alvin 'Xzibit' Joiner, Jennifer Coolidge, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Irma P Hall, Tom Bower, Michael Shannon

Director: Werner Herzog

Slightly reminiscent of TV's The Shield, with drugs placing our lead cop in peril rather than money, this down-dirty thriller centres on a performance by Cage that harks back to the more 'outrageous' portrayals of his earlier days.

With his partner (Kilmer, scarcely seen thereafter) looking on, McDonagh (Cage) rescues a lowlife from drowning at the cost of permanent damage to his back. Six months later, he is addicted not only to prescription drugs but also to cocaine and heroin - as is his prostitute girlfriend (Mendes).

McDonagh is a character of curious contradictions. He breaks most canons of the cop's code, yet, lurking deep beneath is his own notion of justice, and you sense that the initial case of a massacre of a family, including children, by local gangstas, may, in a strange way, come full circle before the film has come to its conclusion, even as McDonagh sinks deeper into narcotics and starts seeing iguanas singing and dead bodies breakdancing (shades of Naked Lunch).

Director Herzog parades a prime gallery of wierdoes to circle McDonagh like vultures in his downward plunge. Coolidge is his beer-sodden stepmother-in-law, Joiner a drug lord with two gun barrels strapped under his desk, while Ned, McDonagh's gambling contact, provides a latter-day and only mildly wild-eyed role for Brad Dourif.

Sometimes you're not sure whether or not to laugh at McDonagh's wilder episodes, but by and large this is a grittier-than-gritty piece that marches to the beat of its own drum.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour by FotoKem.
122 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 3, Swearing 2.

Review date: 16 May 2010