Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Directed by Abel Ferrara. This movie got a lot of attention when it came out and then became a cult film of sorts for a while after that, but it doesn't seem like you hear much about it any more. Now I guess Werner Herzog just re-made the thing with Nicholas Cage, which some people seem to think is like trying to re-paint the Mona Lisa. I'm not going to go that far. I'll say it's like re-making "Bad Lieutenant." You could, but why bother?

Though you are probably well aware, "Bad Lieutenant" is a couple of hours of Harvey Keitel's character having a drug-fueled, emotional and spiritual breakdown. Sure, it's interesting to watch, but there's no question that part of its appeal lies outside its intent, as an example of an over-indulgent art film -- and the cracks show even more fifteen years after its release.

Don't get me wrong, it holds together and it holds up. It's exhausting; I don't have the energy to re-cap it here. The themes are all solid, it's not some haphazard mash. This is a real story about lost faith and redemption. But it's so deliberate and earnest in its challenge to the viewer that at a certain point, any reasonable film goer is well within their right to make a few jokes at the expense of the characters on-screen. Yes, we feel his pain -- but sometimes the pain is a little bit funny, like an old record by the Cure or Echo and the Bunnymen.

Which means that when this Nicholas Cage version comes out, all bets are off and the jokes can start before the house lights even go down.

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