Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (R) ★★★½

Review Date: November 20th, 2009

Neither a sequel to Bad Lieutenant nor a remake of it, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is, in fact, an entirely different animal than Abel Ferrara's 1992 indie hit. And oh, what a strange, fascinating, ferocious animal it is. Take a film noir version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, run in through a kitchen garbage disposal, and you'll get a sense of what this surreal comic masterpiece holds in store.

Directed by Werner Herzog, that German mad scientist whose varied oeuvre includes the underrated 2006 drama Rescue Dawn and the heartbreaking 2005 doc Grizzly Man, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, takes its predecessor's premise of a corrupt, decadent cop operating on both sides of the law and uses it as a gateway to a frenzied world of unmitigated depravity.

Our chauffeur on this manic joyride through Hades is Nicolas Cage, showing utter contempt for subtlety in the title role of New Orleans detective Terence McDonagh. After suffering a painful back injury during the Katrina disaster, McDonagh graduated from prescription opiates to their illegal counterparts within months, and is a fully-functioning drug addict by the time we meet him. Twitchy, sweaty, occasionally delusional and prone to angry outbursts, he's still the best damn cop in the entire Orleans parish — albeit one who steals items from the prop room, tortures elderly invalids for information, fixes college football games and shakes down perps for crack.

It's a difficult enterprise, juggling a full-time police job, an all-consuming drug addiction and a temperamental hooker girlfriend (Eva Mendes), and the stresses of such delirious multi-tasking begin to wear on McDonagh. But even as his descent into madness gathers momentum (evidenced by nagging visions of imaginary iguanas), his determination to deliver justice the beleaguered citizens of New Orleans remains unfettered.

Any doubts that Bad Lieutenant: New Orleans is meant to be taken as a comedy will disappear during its climax, which features perhaps the most hilariously collection of rapid-fire deus ex machina moments in cinematic history. It's the perfect capstone to this endlessly bizarre, wildly entertaining film. rated this film 3 1/2 stars.