You are hereSometimes the worst criminal is yourself

Sometimes the worst criminal is yourself


By Matthew Arnoldi - Posted on 24 May 2010

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Nic Cage comes up with one of the best roles of his career playing good cop - decidedly bad cop Terence McDonagh, a murder detective who certainly doesn't play by the rules.

The beginning of the film sees New Orleans suffering from the recent floods. A prisoner stuck in a cell is going to die in the rising polluted waters but McDonagh goes beyond the call of duty, saves him and receives a medal. The rescue leaves him though with a bad back, a noticeable stoop and the need to take a heap of pills as well as whatever class-A drugs he can get his hands on (by fair means or foul) to minimise the pain.

A year later, we catch up with a haggard Terence up to shady deals before he gets his teeth into a murder case, the senseless homicide of a black family which leads him to believe that at the heart of the case is a nasty drugs trio who didn't like their patch being invaded upon.

If only that was all that McDonagh has to deal with. He's got an escort for a girlfriend (Mendes), dysfunctional parents, another set of villains after a big packet of money he owes them and then there's the dog that needs looking after and the big magnum he carries and brandishes in front of anyone who stands in his way, including in front of the old lady living in the old people's home.

Bad Lieutenant was a film that first gave actor Harvey Keitel the chance to show that cops aren't always whiter than white. Port of Orleans isn't a sequel but it does see Nic Cage not only carrying on in the same vein but also exploring a richly mined vein of comic irony with his writer-director Werner Herzog. If there's a message in the film its almost that out of the worst of situations, life can often have a way of dealing you the unexpected and that is certainly true in the world that McDonagh inhabits.

Of course a cop who isn't likeable but gets the job done is often going to be an attractive proposition and that is certainly the case here. Cage is excellent and receives able support from the likes of Fairuza Balk playing a punkish traffic cop, Val Kilmer playing a fellow detective and particularly Eva Mendes as the film's eye candy and sparkily long-suffering girlfriend to McDonaugh.

If you're into the likes of CSI and like the kind of cop thrillers that shows that the lines between cops and robbers is often a little blurred, then Bad lieutenant is certainly a film that you should make a point of seeing. Its arguably one of Cage's best performances without question.

Matt Arnoldi

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