Don't let the juxtaposition of Nicolas Cage and the Virgin Mary seen above fool you: this loose remake of Abel Ferrara's raw 1992 masterpiece doesn't have anything like the spiritual dimension of the first film. If anything, The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans is an almost-perfect representation of the old Marx gloss on Hegel, the one where history occurs first as tragedy, then as farce. For all of its strengths and weaknesses, Werner Herzog's movie, from a script by William M. Finkelstein, is best appreciated as a comedy.
As befits Herzog, it's a behavioral comedy, one that comes up with a novel answer in just about every scene to the question, "Well, how bad is he?" After injuring his back in an accident of compassion, Cage's once-good cop Terence McDonagh winds up addicted to pretty much every narcotics substance on the planet. As he snorts and pops his way through the investigation of a particularly grisly drug-related mass murder, the film plays a game of "Can You Top This?" as its actual plot line coalesces in a desultory fashion. (Despite his penchant for "adventure" movies, Herzog has always been more about creating galvanic effects/atmospheres than in orchestrating breathtaking narrative momentum.) Is McDonagh really going to threaten to shoot that drugstore security guard? Rip off coke from his call-girl girlfriend's client in the middle of a date? Shake down that fearsome drug kingpin he once had a hard-on to see behind bars? Use the word "nigga" in the presence of said drug kingpin and his intimidating cohort, African-Americans all? Yes, yes, yes, and aw-no-you-dint-hells-yeah, as they say.
The reports are quite accurate as to Cage's "going there" for all this, but this performance is a piece of virtuosic slapstick rather than the exhibition (exhibitionism?) of raw-nerve emotional torment that Harvey Keitel essayed in Ferrara's film. If you're not in on the joke by the time Cage's character gets the run of the property room from whence he filches a lot of his dope, whereupon his eyes go wider than Klaus Kinski's Nosferatu did at the sight of Jonathan Harker's blood, then you'll never get it. The original Bad Lieutenant is a genuinely agonized religious parable about the nature of forgiveness and redemption. This is a far more cynical exercise that practically trips over itself laughing at the deliberately cheap ironies it proffers in its final 20 minutes. If I was Abel Ferrara, I'd be pissed off too.
But as I'm not Abel, I can recommend this as a divertingly crazed romp that will resonate particularly well with fans of Cage the eccentric performer rather than Cage the action blockbuster cardboard cutout, or Cage the money manager for that matter.