Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is like falling in and out of a hallucinogenic dream. Sometimes it's a gritty film noir slinking through the hurricane-ravaged city. Other times, it's plain nutty, but engagingly so.
If Herzog's maverick iconoclastic sensibility isn't enough, Nicolas Cage gives one of the strangest performances of his career (and that's saying something, considering Leaving Las Vegas or Wild at Heart) as Terence McDonagh, a New Orleans cop who walks the line between his sense of professionalism and his demons.
We first meet McDonagh when, despite his partner's incredulity, he jumps in the water to save a prisoner during Hurricane Katrina. It gets him a promotion — and a drug habit from painkillers.
That, coupled with his gambling addiction and being hooked on a prostitute named Frankie (Eva Mendes), makes him the focus of internal affairs.
Over the years Herzog has loved to chronicle madmen — Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Grizzly Man — and McDonagh is another one. He has no problem with shakedowns, but he tries to solve the murders of five Nigerian drug dealers. There's nothing neat about Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which is vaguely tied to Abel Ferrara's 1992 Bad Lieutenant, set in New York City. There is no easy way to describe the plot, which ultimately has some truly bizarre twists.
The atmosphere is murky and muddy, with an appropriate score by Mark Isham, but the film's weirdness is like gumbo — spicy with a kick that's hard to resist.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans retails for $28.98, or $29.98 on Blu-ray.