Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

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Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
File:Bad lieutenant.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Werner Herzog
Produced by
Written by William M. Finkelstein
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Peter Zeitlinger
Edited by Joe Bini
Distributed by First Look Studios
Release dates
  • November 20, 2009 (2009-11-20)[1]
Running time
122 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[3]
Box office $10.6 million[3]

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (also known as The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) is a 2009 American crime drama film directed by Werner Herzog and starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Tom Bower, Jennifer Coolidge, Alvin 'Xzibit' Joiner, Val Kilmer, and Brad Dourif. The film takes its title from Abel Ferrara's 1992 film, Bad Lieutenant;[4] however, according to Herzog, the film is neither a sequel nor a remake, but instead a re-imagining.[5] Both Bad Lieutenant films were produced by Edward R. Pressman.

The film premiered on September 9, 2009 at the 66th Venice International Film Festival where it won the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation Special Award for Herzog. It opened in general release in the United States on November 20, 2009.[1]


August 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana. Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) is a New Orleans Police Sergeant. While cleaning out a locker after Hurricane Katrina, he notices that a prisoner may not have been transferred. When he finds the prisoner about to drown, he mocks him before eventually jumping in the water to save him. He is promoted to lieutenant and given a medal for his work, but has suffered a serious back injury because of the rescue. As a result, he is prescribed Vicodin which he will most likely need to take for the rest of his life to manage the pain.

Six months later, McDonagh is now not only addicted to painkillers, but is habitually using several other drugs including cocaine and cannabis. He has convinced a person that works in the police department to bring him drugs sent to the evidence room. His girlfriend Frankie Donnenfeld (Eva Mendes), a prostitute, also does cocaine and they often share drugs. He has also become estranged from his father Pat (Tom Bower), a recovering alcoholic who can only bring himself to attend to his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and nothing else, and his alcoholic stepmother, Genevieve (Jennifer Coolidge). Over the course of the film, he uses his position as an officer to bully people and steal more drugs.

McDonagh has been assigned to investigate a murder scene, where five illegal immigrants from Senegal were executed. Information comes in that leads them to a delivery boy who was an auditory witness, and through his details and evidence they deduce the people were killed for selling drugs in a gang leader's neighborhood. The gang leader Big Fate (Alvin 'Xzibit' Joiner) has two associates: Midget (Lucius Baston) and G (Tim Bellow). They are both arrested, leading to Big Fate willingly coming to the police station with his lawyer. As they try to get enough evidence to convict Big Fate, McDonagh goes back to a hotel room where he finds Frankie beaten by one of her clients, a seemingly well-connected man named Justin (Shea Whigham). McDonagh threatens Justin and takes $10,000 from him. Later on, the auditory witness of the murder scene goes missing. McDonagh finds the witness's grandmother, who works at a nursing home, and threatens to kill an old woman who is the grandmother's patient to get the grandmother to tell where the witness has gone. The old woman has sent him to stay with her family in England, to prevent him from getting involved in gang affairs.

In addition to dealing with the murder investigation, McDonagh gets in trouble with his bookie Ned (Brad Dourif) for not paying his debts. What little money McDonagh has is given to a gangster who works for Justin. The gangster now requests five times the amount stolen from Justin, $50,000, as compensation, and gives McDonagh two days to get it. As a result of his treatment of the old woman, McDonagh is on modified duty and his gun placed in the evidence room. Now angry, McDonagh goes to Big Fate and they become partners, with McDonagh supplying Big Fate with police information. McDonagh now has enough money to pay off his debts to his bookie and uses his surplus earnings to place a new bet. During a celebration of the successful partnership between McDonagh and Big Fate, the gangster shows up, demanding his money. McDonagh offers him a cut worth more than $50,000 from a bag filled with pure heroin, but the gangster wants to take it all. Big Fate and his crew end up killing the gangsters.

To further celebrate their partnership, McDonagh implores Big Fate to smoke crack cocaine with his "lucky crack pipe". He does, and McDonagh later plants the pipe at the murder scene of the Senegal family. The department uses this new evidence to arrest Big Fate and his cronies, but when he and McDonagh are alone with Big Fate, McDonagh's partner, Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer), threatens to kill Big Fate, as he doesn't want him to have the chance to escape conviction. McDonagh is outraged at this idea and arrests Big Fate, showing that despite his addictions he still performs his duties as an officer. McDonagh is later promoted to Captain.

One year later, McDonagh appears to be sober, as do Frankie (who is pregnant with McDonagh's child) and McDonagh's parents, but it turns out that McDonagh is still taking heroin. He encounters the prisoner whom he saved at the beginning of the film, and the man, recognizing McDonagh, exclaims that McDonagh saved his life. The man has been sober for almost a year and offers to help McDonagh finally escape his own addiction. McDonagh simply asks, "Do fish have dreams?" The film ends with the two men in an aquarium, sitting on the floor with their backs against a wall-sized fish tank.




The film was first announced in May 2008 with Werner Herzog to direct and Nicolas Cage to star. The script was penned by TV writer William Finkelstein.[8]

Actress Eva Mendes, who starred with Cage in the 2007 film Ghost Rider, joined the cast the following June.[7]

Connection to the 1992 film

One major change from the original film was moving the setting from New York City to New Orleans.[9] Herzog insists that the film is not a remake, saying, "It only has a corrupt policeman as the central character and that's about it."[5]

At the 81st Academy Awards, Herzog stated that he has never seen Ferrara's film, saying "I haven't seen it, so I can't compare it. It has nothing to do with it."[10] Herzog did not like the idea of a remake and desired to change the title of the film, but was unsuccessful. Herzog stated, "I battled against the title from the first moment on", but added, "I can live with it, I have no problem with it at all. The title is probably a mistake, but so be it."[11]


Principal photography began on July 7, 2008 in Louisiana[12] and also around South Mississippi, shooting some scenes at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis.

Abel Ferrara's reaction

Abel Ferrara, director of the 1992 film, has been quoted by various media outlets as being very angry about this film. After the film was first announced, Ferrara was quoted as saying "As far as remakes go, ... I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they're all in the same streetcar, and it blows up."[13] When asked later for his response to Ferrara's statements, Herzog stated that he does not know who Ferrara is, saying "I've never seen a film by him. I have no idea who he is."[13] At a press conference at the Venice Film Festival after the film's premiere, Herzog said of Ferrara, "I would like to meet the man," and "I have a feeling that if we met and talked, over a bottle of whisky, I should add, I think we could straighten everything out."[14]


Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes and Werner Herzog at the Venice Film Festival for the premiere of the film.

Although production on the film was completed in 2008, the film did not quickly find a distributor for a wide release. The film had its world premiere at the 2009 Venice Film Festival,[15] and was also screened at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival[16] and the 2009 Telluride Film Festival.

Box office

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans opened theatrically on November 20, 2009 by First Look Studios[1] in 27 venues, earning $245,398 in its opening weekend, ranking number 22 at the box office.[17] The film ended its run on March 4, 2010 with 96 venues being its widest release, having grossed $1,702,112 in the domestic box office and $8,886,990 overseas for a worldwide total of $10,589,102.[3]

Critical response

The film received largely positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an 87% "Fresh" rating based on 138 reviews.[18] On Metacritic, the film has a 69 out of 100 rating based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19]

The Guardian critic Xan Brooks called Cage's work in the film "surely his best performance in years."[20] Blogging about the film from the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival,[21] Roger Ebert declared: "Nicolas Cage is as good as anyone since Klaus Kinski at portraying a man whose head is exploding. It's a hypnotic performance." [22] He also wrote that the film is very different from Abel Ferrara's 1992 film and that "comparisons are pointless." Ebert named the film as among the top 10 best mainstream films of 2009,[23] and then included it in his list of the best films of the decade.[24]

The film appeared on several critics' lists of "best films of 2009", including:

In some regions, the film was not released until 2010:

  • James McMahon of NME: #5 among top 10 films of 2010[31]
  • Neil Young of Tribune: #6 among top 10 films of 2010[32]


Venice Film Festival 2009
Independent Spirit Awards 2010
Toronto Film Critics Association 2010
Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2010

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Herzog's BAD LIEUTENANT gets a U.S. release date".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "THE BAD LIEUTENANT - PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (18)". British Board of Film Classification. January 21, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. March 5, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Goldstein, Gregg (July 2, 2008). "Val Kilmer, Xzibit join 'Bad' update". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Company. Archived from the original on July 14, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Douglas, Edward (July 5, 2008). "Exclusive: The Bad Lieutenant is NOT a Remake!". Coming Soon Media, L.P. Retrieved August 11, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Fleming, Michael (July 2, 2008). "Kilmer, Xzibit join 'Bad Lieutenant'". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved July 28, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Siegel, Tatiana (June 15, 2008). "Eva Mendes eyes 'Bad Lieutenant'". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved July 29, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. McNary, Dave (May 13, 2008). "Nic Cage to star in 'Bad Lieutenant'". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved July 29, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Scott, Mike (May 24, 2008). "One hot homecoming". The Times-Picayune. Advance Publications.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Werner Herzog Hasn't Seen Original 'Bad Lieutenant'". Movies Blog.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Vivarelli, Nick (June 20, 2008). "Ferrara has few 'Bad' things to say". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved July 29, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Werner Herzog on Abel Ferrara: 'Who Is He?'". June 5, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Lyman, Eric J. (September 4, 2009). "'Bad Lieutenant' and bad blood in Venice". The Hollywood Reporter.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  15. Brown, Mark (July 30, 2009). "Herzog's Bad Lieutenant joins Venice film festival contenders". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 26, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant Added To Toronto Fest Lineup - /Film". Slashfilm.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Weekend Box Office Results for November 20-22, 2009". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. November 23, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 29, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Brooks, Xan (September 7, 2009). "Bad Lieutenant". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 26, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Lambert, Christine (2009). "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans premiere at 2009 Toronto International Film Festival". Retrieved December 12, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Ebert, Roger (September 14, 2009). "TIFF #7: It was a very good day". Chicago Sun-Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. 23.0 23.1 "The best films of 2009". Chicago Sun-Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "The best films of the decade". Chicago Sun-Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Morgan, Kim (March 18, 2010). "Top Ten Movies of 2009". Huffington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Beyond the Multiplex's Top 10 foreign language and indie films of 2009". The Oregonian. December 30, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "What Were The Best Films Of 2010?". NME.COM.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Ten top movie hits and six near-misses".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links