Bad Lieutenant

 (aka Port of Call New Orleans; 2009)

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Let's assume that you hated all those high-falutin' moral conundrums and ethical choices which faced Harvey Keitel in the original version of Bad Lieutenant, making the film a real downer. You just wanted the film to be a fun, over-the-top entertainment film about a blatantly bad cop and his relationship with his superiors, his bookie, his hooker girlfriend, the mob, the local drug lords, and the people he's supposed to protect. Well, I have the film for you: the new improved Nic Cage version of Bad Lieutenant, or BL as I like to call him.

Director Werner Herzog took this film in some strange directions. Stylistically, he chose to film some of it from the POV of an omniscient, objective camera eye and some of it from the POV of a total crackhead, and he did not choose to be very clear about exactly when he was making the transition from one to another. That is to say that the viewer often really doesn't know what's real and what is a product of BL's drug-induced hallucinations. The film's eccentricity doesn't stop with its offbeat narrative style (including a Letterman-style Gator Cam). The plot and tone shifts are equally outlandish. About twenty minutes before the end of the film, BL's problems seem to be inescapable. The mob wants him dead. The internal affairs guys are closing in on him. He gets caught browbeating a congressman's granny. His bookie is about to turn him over to the usual rough collection process. The All-American who is supposed to shave points for him is held out of a key game. His girlfriend is close to death from her heroin addiction. He has bungled a key investigation. And then, miraculously, all of those crises are resolved in the most favorable ways possible, and he gets promoted to Bad Captain!

Does he learn from his good fortune? Think about it. Do we ever really learn a lesson when we fuck everything up but luck out with a positive result? Not very often. Most of the time, we just think we have everything under control, or that we are truly earning positive results with our own sterling efforts. Since those efforts produced favorable results in the past, we are more likely to repeat them than to change our ways. In this regard, BL is a lot like the rest of us, or at least like what we would be if we were played by Nic Cage.

Is this entire film actually a parody of the original Bad Lieutenant, or of "bad cop" movies in general? Beats me. I do know that it's an oddly appealing film. Werner Herzog goes Tarantino on us, with surprisingly watchable results. It's like watching Shaq play volleyball in that "Shaq Vs." show. It's not always very good, and it can look really awkward, but it's utterly unpredictable and usually fun to watch.

DVD Blu-Ray


4 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
2.5 James Berardinelli  (of 4 stars)
85 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
69 (of 100)


7.2 IMDB summary (of 10)
B- Yahoo Movies


Box Office Mojo. It grossed $1.4 million in boutique distribution (96 theaters).



  • There is almost none. Stephanie Honore gets her bare butt fondled by BL in a shakedown. It's brief and little is visible.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this odd film is a: