First things first - This film has a lot to answer for. Film critic and cinematic encyclopedia Roger Ebert has placed this in his top ten for the decade, Danny Boyle has named it his film of 2010 and all this with a cast list that should be held apart with ASBOS! Seriously, has anyone actually seen Ghostrider? So Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes are back but this time it's different... It's Werner Herzog directing.
Now, I'm not going to profess to be a huge Nicholas Cage fan. For me he's a bit like a one armed midget drunk and playing darts: He'll miss the target nearly every time but when he hits the bullseye it's miraculous. So let's put things in context. Cage plays a dirty but injured cop who steals, blackmails, snorts, smokes and fornicates his way through life. It's his best role since Leaving Las Vegas but whereas that character portrayed a mind void of drive and lust for life, Terence McDonagh is different. His life is centred around action and reaction and Cage plays him this way. Gone are the puppy-dog-eyes of City of Angels: Cage is a scowling badass. He's in constant pain and he's not afraid to share.
There is no conventional progression for the character and he's so unpredictable that it sets the entire plot on a knife edge. He does evil things but is he evil? Every action he under takes is to fulfill his own desires from a drug fix to stashing his "hooker with a heart" girlfriend with his alcoholic father and step mother. The fact he injured his back begrudgingly saving a drowning inmate shows his conflict more than dialogue can.
So this ranks very high on Cage's CV but what about Herzog? What I love about Herzog is that he bases his films on truth. A majority of his films being documentaries or based on actual events. He seems to direct from a personal fascination with our world and the internal conflicts of the soul. Whereas, I felt Rescue Dawn was ruined by an overly saccharin ending, thankfully Herzog leaves the resolution suitably dirty. Don't think That Herzog has gone all Hollywood on us though. Ever seen a roadkill from the eyes of an Alligator? It's no dancing chicken but it's pure Herzog. Most directors spice up their action scenes with fast cuts but not Herzog.The most tense scenes in Bad Lieutenant are shot on a handheld camera which swoops into different shots almost like an observer in the room avoiding the conflict. It's mainstream sure but it's skewed vision allows it to stand out from the red carpet toilet paper currently doing the rounds.
Scores 5 out of 5
Twitter Fitter Review
Cage is astounding: think Christian Bale in The Machinist but with more depth. Not a film for the masses but a must see for Herzog fans.