Archive for March, 2012

You’ve reached the seventh and final installment of a scene-for-scene look at Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. You may want to browse Parts I, II, III, IV, V, and VI. Or you can steamroll ahead and hope it all makes sense.

And so we arrive at the final chapter in our exhaustive analysis of Bad Lieutenant. This post explores the film’s slippery final minutes, in which people learn lessons, loose ends get tied, and yet, somehow, nothing is revealed.

Bad Lieutenant‘s ride-off into the sunset begins after a climactic — and gloriously berserk — shootout at Xzibit‘s mansion. Over the last of Sonny Terry’s harmonica howling, the film cuts to a junior cop (Shawn Hatosy) at the familiar police station setting. Nicolas Cage enters the frame to inquire about Hatosy’s evening plans in a near incomprehensible drawl. Notice the return of two of Cage’s favorite affectations: his slurred accent and his sharply slanted posture.

Cage wants Hatosy to revisit the home where a Senegalese family was murdered at the start of the film. He has a strange hunch that Hatosy might find a crack pipe belonging to Xzibit. A find like that would place Xzibit at the crime scene and effectively solve the murder case. Hatosy, as if he’s heard such things before, asks, “You had a vision, right?”

Since when does Cage have visions? Since when does he use them as an excuse to follow hunches on the detective trail? Since when was Bad Lieutenant one those shows about cops with supernatural abilities (i.e. “Profiler,” “Psych,” “The Mentalist,” “Millenium”)? Since never, basically. At no point in Bad Lieutenant do we get the slightest impression that Cage has visions or strong intuition, which he uses to cajole his peers into doing things his way. The line sprouts from nowhere. It serves as a comically lazy explanation for why Hatosy would believe Cage’s random hunch. Never mind that it inspires distracting questions like the ones above and has no logical connection to the previous 100 minutes. Of course, Cage has hallucinations, but those drugged-out interludes never relate to his police work. Those are just the synaptic firings of a man on heroin or crack or coke. The line makes zero sense, and it reminds us just how little Herzog cares about narrative logic. He’d much rather inspire off-topic questions (like the ones above) than adhere to the rules of by-the-numbers storytelling. (more…)

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Bad Lieutenant’s not going to appreciate itself, you know. For best results, read parts I, II, III, IV, and V on this very blog. 

Welcome back, dear readers. We now return to our scene-for-scene look at Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, the cult-film curio from Werner Herzog. Our last installment trailed a demure Nicolas Cage as he adopted a nonsensical accent and worked to solve the film’s MacGuffin murder case. Cage’s histrionics and Herzog’s wild tangents took a back seat to the film’s skeleton: its script. Like some overbearing authority figure, William Finkelstein‘s screenplay broke up the party and demanded some tangible action. But what is Bad Lieutenant without Herzog and Cage’s enabling relationship, which hijacks a by-the-numbers script and sends it headlong into lunacy?

We begin this installment with Cage, Xzibit, and a few of the rapper/actor’s henchmen. Xzibit parks his Escalade along the New Orleans waterfront. As his cronies dispose of a dead body, Xzibit lays out a business proposal.

Over a roving, 50-second long take, Xzibit chats about his plans to buy cheap riverfront property and sell it to salivating real estate developers. He asks Cage to be the front man for his operation; never mind that he hardly knows Cage and has no real reason to trust him. The story calls for the men to interact, and so they do, logic be damned. Here we get some textbook lazy character development. Given Xzibit’s late entrance into the film — he doesn’t have a substantial scene until well past the movie’s halfway point — Herzog and Finkelstein cram a lot of plot into a tight time frame. By film’s end, of course, Bad Lieutenant drops the pretense and begins to openly mock such plot contrivances. (more…)

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