Director: Werner Herzog Link: IMDB It's so easy to forget that Nicolas Cage can be one tremendous actor. Cage, who won an Oscar for his turn as a suicidal alcoholic in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas, has given some outstanding performances in his career, but in looking at his most recent work you would think he was only in it for the paycheck. Cage has surely had his fair share of bombs over the past decade, and there's really not a whole lot you can say about his performances in the movies that struck box office gold either. Sure, some of those films can be deemed as successful, but you can just tell Cage wasn't pouring his heart and soul into his work. Some may consider this lazy, but I see it as Cage not being challenged. Actors and actresses have the ability to surprise us when they are given the right roles and the right filmmakers to collaborate with, and that's exactly what's happened with director Werner Herzog's The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. It was only a matter of time before these two eccentric personalities made a film together, and when all the smoke has cleared, Bad Lieutenant could very well revive Cage's career in the same way Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta. Herzog (Rescue Dawn, Grizzly Man) and Emmy-winning writer William M. Finkelstein (TV's L.A. Law) deserve a lot of credit for creating the engaging character of Terence McDonagh, a corrupt and drug-addicted cop, but it is Cage who leaves the most memorable impression. Watching Cage perform as Terence McDonagh is a thing of beauty: You actually believe he is Terence and not just an actor playing a part. And that's extremely impressive given that Terence is so off-the-wall you would think you could never take him seriously. (I still have a couple of films to see, but right now I would give Cage the Academy Award for Best Actor. However, that's precisely why Bad Lieutenant is so much fun. Terence, who constantly has more than half of his .44 Magnum protruding out of his waistband, is so unpredictable that you hang on his every word and action, and it sounds strange to say this, but even though he does some appalling things, Cage's wild performance lightens the mood and brings a little humor to the table. But Terence was not always a bad apple, at least not the one we see months after an incident in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that leaves him with severe, lifelong back problems. It was the bravery he showed that day that got him promoted to lieutenant and a distinguished service cross, but you have to wonder if it was worth all the trouble. Now Terence's back is so screwed up that he slouches around like he swallowed a slightly bent coat hangar, and even a steady supply of Vicodin isn't enough to ease his suffering. Because of this, Terence turns to other forms of “painkillers” like cocaine, heroin, marijuana and crack, which he steals from the police evidence room, the customers of his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and the people he pulls over on a daily basis. Cage is at his most entertaining when Terence is under the influence of drugs, but disappointingly, Bad Lieutenant does not include enough of those moments when he is off his rocker. While watching Cage in Bad Lieutenant I felt like a crack fiend myself: No matter how much I got it was never going to be enough. (I only wish there could have been more scenes like the ones where he berates a pharmacist who is more concerned about a personal phone call than handing out his prescription, or when he tells a drug dealer to keep shooting a dead guy because he can still see his soul dancing.) It is during those times when Cage's performance is dialed down a bit that you can notice the script does have a few weak spots. Much of the plot revolves around Terence investigating the murders of an illegal immigrant family from Senegal (a drug supplier played by rapper Xzibit is the main suspect), but surprisingly that aspect lacks the suspense that is needed. It seems like Terence always has the upper hand, so you never really feel like his life is in danger or that he will get in trouble for his misdeeds. (The side stories that involve Terence's bookie and his recovering alcoholic father also don't really add much to the movie.) But even when the screenplay falls into the category of ordinary, Herzog lifts everything up with his distinctive visual style. The film's look never becomes monotonous because of Herzog's varying use of handheld cameras, tracking shots, close-ups, long shots, zooms and animal point-of-view shots, and he paints a perfect picture of what New Orleans looked like shortly after Katrina. But back to those animal point-of-view shots. Herzog includes a number of unique scenes involving such creatures as snakes, fish and alligators, but you won't believe your eyes when he rolls out the iguanas. Trust me, you'll be talking about those green, cold-blooded reptiles for years to come. Rating: 8/10