Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant is a peculiar film, but one well worth a watch. Its strength is in the fact that it does not follow more traditional approaches to filmmaking, the result of which is a compelling film.
Lieutenant Terence McDonagh is charged with investigating the murder of a Senegalese family in post-Katrina New Orleans. His drug and gambling addictions, however, interfere with solving the crime…
What begins as a noir drama becomes increasingly surreal in a style often associated with David Lynch. As McDonagh descends further into criminality, the story takes several turns and it is hard to predict how the film will conclude. With so many highly predictable films released of late, this makes a refreshing change.
Overall, Nicolas Cage gives a good performance as McDonagh, although at times it seems that he is trying so hard to give a first-rate performance that it comes across as forced. The supporting cast performs well, with Xzibit and Jennifer Coolidge in particular giving believable performances. Eva Mendes is fine as love interest Frankie, although the casting of such a beautiful actress in this role is a tad unconvincing.
The cinematography and production design work well to create visuals that match the seedy nature of the narrative. The soundtrack is sometimes inspired, adding to the uncanny sequences.
By not following the rules, Herzog has created a film that throws up unexpected incidents and strange but amusing scenes in what could have been a straightforward crime thriller. The Bad Lieutenant is an intriguing film, offering a modicum of the unforeseen in a sea of predictability.