Film Review: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans

27/05/2010

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.

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Film Review: Kick-Ass

01/04/2010

Kick-Ass is a very enjoyable movie, combining entertaining action sequences, a good dose of humour and a fitting soundtrack. Nonetheless, that does not mean to say there aren’t flaws in Matthew Vaughn’s film.

Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave, a geeky teenage boy who decides to become a superhero after becoming disenchanted with the passive reactions of people to crime. He dons a ridiculous scuba suit and takes to the streets of New York to fight crime. Things get a little more complicated, however, when he encounters some real life superheroes…

The beginning indicates a reflexive film, with Dave asking his friends why no one in the real world has tried to become a superhero. Along with the knowing references and jokes, Dave makes it clear in his narration that he has no typical superhero back story. The superheroes he meets, however, do.

This is part of the problem of Kick-Ass; what starts as a humorous take on the genre proceeds to follow many of the stock conventions of a superhero film. Additionally, with Nicolas Cage’s well-publicised interest in superhero comics, Kick-Ass at times feels like a vehicle for him to act out his superhero fantasies.

Fighting crime and the fame that come with it only seem to be of interest to Dave/Kick-Ass until he gets with the girl of his dreams. The moral here seems to be that nerdy fanboys are only interested in comics as they do not have much else going on in their social lives. The film does nonetheless stress the importance of new media for a would-be superhero; the YouTube segments show a startling verisimilitude. Bearing this in mind, the heavy presence of Myspace seems odd, given the overriding popularity of other social networking sites nowadays. But that’s product placement for you.

As other reviews have highlighted, there are other superhero texts that feature ordinary people as heroes. Whilst Big Daddy and Hit Girl would describe themselves as vigilantes, they are also in fact mass-murderers. This sits at odds with Kick-Ass‘s rather lighthearted premise of real life superheroes fighting crime.

As the film points out, there is a very famous superhero who has no special powers, bar his wealth. The real superheroes in Kick-Ass also acquire their advantages through financial means. The big difference, though, is that Batman doesn’t kill dozens of people in revenge missions.