From the outset, this movie sets a dreary scene, devoid of goodwill, integrity and or any kind of moral awareness... and things aren't about to get much better as we delve further.
Terence McDonough (Cage) is the kind of cop that you don’t want to meet on a shady street after dark. Come to think of it, you wouldn’t be keen on running into him in broad daylight either. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he’s involved in investigating the execution of a whole family in a drugs-related gang war. Twisted in pain from a back injury, he takes to substance-abuse to ease his suffering. He makes arrests for drug possession, leaving him with easy access, but in order to keep his secret he has to put the squeeze on a few people. Basically, if corruption was an Olympic sport then this guy would be gold medal standard. There’s no level he won’t stoop to in order to pursue his own agenda - gambling, soliciting sexual favours and engaging in a bit of police brutality against defenceless elderly people.
Nicolas Cage gives the performance his all but there are times when it’s just overkill. His convincing nasty cop routine is clouded by the overly-contorted body shape he pulls, making the character seem a little too tortured. Eva Mendes is great, however, as his go-to-girl with a flair for trouble, bringing just the right amount of glamour to their otherwise gritty world of crime and addiction.
In its favour, the movie is shot perfectly for the tone and subject matter, with its grim feel forcing you to inhabit the seedy world of its lead character and his accomplices.
While Herzog stresses this is not a remake, 'The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans' is, like Abel Ferrara's 1992 film 'The Bad Lieutenant', grim to the core. Immersed in corruption, human weakness and the worst abuses of power, it fails to redeem itself with any sense of justice and therefore makes for unsettling viewing.