Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bad Lieutenant, Port of Call - New Orleans

Nicolas Cage. You needn't say more. He really tops himself in this role of a complicated detective in the port of New Orleans. When you think "over the top," sure, you think "Nicolas Cage," but his portrayal is more multi-leveled than that.

Terence McDonagh is injured in a selfless act post-Katrina and needs constant pain medication for his back just to make it through the day. Every stiff-legged step he takes tells you that throughout this drama. The act of altruism we see in the beginning tells us that McDonagh isn't a bad guy, but he drifts into bad activities in order to alleviate the pain -- helping himself to drugs in the police lock-up, eventually holding up kids and threatening them with police records in order to get their stash, etc.

In the meantime, while we watch his descent into a drug-addled life, his police work and excesses take us into a bam-bam kind of existence: he's trying to solve the murder of a family, his drug-using prostitute girlfriend has her own problems with men who beat her up as part of the sex, his alcoholic father's dog needs to be taken care of, he runs afoul of his bookie when he bets on the wrong teams over and over, a nervous teenage witness has to be protected, and he starts seeing hallucinations -- on and on until you wonder when everything will cave in on him.

Thankfully this is an intelligently written screenplay with more than a few surprises and, of course, excesses. It's rather compelling and, due to Cage's skill and effect on us, we're involved enough to see it through.

Talk about excess. There are a couple of scenes where our coked-up lieutenant resembles the lead character in Scarface. This film isn't for everyone, but for those who like action and especially Cage, it's a winner. Thumb's up.


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