Scenes I Love: Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer Play Beach Volleyball in Top Gun


Tom Cruise is 60 years old today!  He doesn’t look a day over 36.  Insert your own Dorian Gray joke here.

No matter what else you may want to say about Tom Cruise, you can’t deny that he’s one of the last of the genuine movie stars.  He’s been a star in since the 80s, doing things onscreen that you could never imagine some of our younger actors even attempting.  And right now, Top Gun: Maverick appears to be unstoppable with audiences and critics.  There are many reasons for Maverick‘s popularity but one cannot deny that a lot of it is the fact that Cruise just has that old-fashioned movie star charisma.

Today’s scene that I love comes from the first Top Gun.  In this scene, Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, and Rick Rossovich play beach volleyball.  The scene kind of comes out of nowhere and there are times when the whole thing comes close to self-parody.  (Actually, if we’re going to be honest, it crosses the line into self-parody more than a few times.)  But, Cruise and Kilmer manage to save it, like the movie stars they are!

Documentary Review: Val (dir by Leo Scott and Ting Poo)


Throughout the documentary Val, modern-day Val Kilmer continually assures us that he feels better than he looks.

It’s a sad statement to hear, not just because Val Kilmer is himself admitting that he doesn’t look particularly healthy but also because it shows that Kilmer is very aware that many viewers will take one look at him and believe that his time has passed.  Val Kilmer went from being a rising star in the 80s and the 90s to being a Hollywood outcast, largely due to a reputation for being eccentric and difficult to work with.  While his legions of fans remembered and continued to celebrate Val Kilmer as Iceman, Jim Morrison and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, the real-life Kilmer was aging, struggling financially, and often appearing in movies that were ignored by the same public who loved his old films.  Kilmer started to make a comeback by playing Mark Twain in an acclaimed one man show but a battle with throat cancer left him without his voice and the ability to feed himself.  No, Kilmer doesn’t look particularly healthy in Val but, as quickly becomes apparent, his mind is as sharp as ever.

Val is really two documentaries in one.  Half of the film is made up of footage of the young Val Kilmer, much of it shot by Kilmer himself.  We see him hanging out with an impossible young-looking Sean Penn.  We also see some behind-the-scenes footage of Tom Cruise in Top Gun and we’re left to wonder how Tom Cruise can look exactly the same in 2021 as he did in 1986.  Kilmer, it turns out, was obsessive about filming his life, leaving you to wonder how much of it was about recording events and how much of it was about maintaining a wall between him and anyone who might get too close.  (By filming everything, Kilmer made sure that no one stopped acting.)  In the late 80s and early 90s, Kilmer went so far as to film unsolicited audition tapes for the directors with whom he wanted to work.  There’s a touching earnestness to the three auditions he filmed for Stanley Kubrick while his attempts to convince Martin Scorsese to cast him in Goodfellas led to Kilmer apparently making a mini-gangster film of his own.  In the footage of the young Kilmer, there’s a mix of good-natured arrogance along with an eagerness to please.  Kilmer knew he was handsome and he knew he was talented but you get the feeling that what he really wanted were for his filmmaking heroes to acknowledge those things.

The other half of the film features the older Kilmer, humbled by poor health and years of personal struggles.  This the Kilmer who can only speak in a rasp of a whisper.  The film follows him as he goes from convention to convention, singing pictures for fans who inevitably ask him to write down catchphrases from either Top Gun or Tombstone.  Kilmer says that a part of him hates having to work the circuit but, at the same time, he’s obviously and sincerely touched to have so many fans.  In one of the films most powerful moments, the older Kilmer watches the younger Kilmer in Tombstone.  Though the modern-day Kilmer insists that he’s doing better than he looks, it’s obvious that he’s now very much aware of his own mortality and there are parts of the film that come dangerously close to sounding like a premature eulogy.  But when Kilmer watches himself as Doc Holliday, it’s obvious that Kilmer knows that, no matter what the future holds, his performances will live forever.

That said, I imagine that there are a lot of people who will watch this film just to see what Kilmer has to say about his legendary reputation for being difficult.  Kilmer admits to being a perfectionist and he says that he sometimes pushed too hard.  There’s a montage of various entertainment reporters, all reporting on Kilmer being “difficult” on the sets of Batman Forever and the Island of Dr. Moreau.  Kilmer, himself, however doesn’t seem to view himself as being unnecessarily difficult and why should he?  While other may have called him eccentric, one gets the feeling that Kilmer would simply say that he was just being himself.

Kilmer reveals a lot about himself and his career in Val.  At the same time, it’s obvious that there are still certain walls that he will never completely let down.  When he discusses his family and his childhood, it’s with a mix of regret and a need to believe that things really weren’t as bad as he remembers them being.  He talks about how his family fell apart after the death of his brother.  His father walked out on the family and, after Val became a star, cheated his son out of a fortune.  One would expect Val to rail against his father but instead, Kilmer just accepts it as something that happened.  Still, the amateur psychologist will be tempted to say that a lot of Val’s perfectionism came from his desire to please his father.  (When Kilmer discusses Iceman in Top Gun, he says that he imagined that Iceman’s competitive nature came from having a father who was never happy with him.)  Perhaps the documentary’s most revealing moment comes when we listen to audio of Val Kilmer arguing with director John Frankenheimer on the troubled set of The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Kilmer says that he can’t do the scene because he’s too upset over Frankenheimer saying that he was considering walking off the picture.  At that moment, one gets the feeling that the film set represented the childhood that Kilmer wanted and working with directors like Frankenheimer and Joel Schumacher threw him back into the mindset of the teen who watched his father walk away when things got too difficult.

Val is a documentary that sticks with you, a mediation of fame, aging, regret, and mortality.  (Let it sound too sad to watch, rest assured that Val Kilmer does have a sense of humor and it is on display in the film.)  Here’s hoping that Val Kilmer is with us and being difficult for a long time to come.

Here’s The Trailer For Val!


This is one documentary that I’m truly looking forward to seeing. Val Kilmer is an intriguing figure, about who much has been written. His talent is legendary. So is his reputation for being a bit …. well, I guess eccentric would be a good way to put it.

I’m looking forward to hearing Val’s side of the story.

Here’s the trailer!

Spring Breakdown: Top Secret! (dir by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker)


“How silly can you get?” Val Kilmer sings in the 1984 film Top Secret! and the answer would appear to be very silly.  Extremely silly.  Nonsensically silly.  Unbelievable silly.  So silly that it transcends all formerly known types of silliness.  In other words, this is a very silly film but that’s okay because it’s meant to be silly.

Some people, I know, would probably argue that Top Secret! doesn’t really qualify as a Spring Break film but I have to disagree.  Like any good Spring Break film, a good deal of Top Secret! takes place on the beach and Val Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, a singer who is obviously meant to be a parody of the type of singers who used to regularly appear in the beach party movies of the 60s.  Nick’s number one hit song is Skeet Surfin, which celebrates the sport of skeet shooting while on a surf board.  The movie opens with hundreds of handsome young men jumping on surf boards while holding rifles.  I honestly don’t know whether skeet surfing was every an actual sport but I certainly hope that it was because it looks like it would have been a lot of fun.  Certainly, it would perk up the Olympics.

Of course, Nick is not the only person in the film whose life is connected to the beach.  Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) spent much of her youth shipwrecked on a beach with Nigel (Christopher Villiers).  Unfortunately, one day, Nigel went out to sea to search for help and he never returned.  Hillary was eventually rescued.  That’s certainly a sadder trip to the beach than Nick’s but still, a beach is a beach.

Hillary and Nick’s paths cross when Nick is invited to perform at a cultural festival in what, in 1984, was known was East Germany.  Hillary is a member of the Resistance while her father, Dr. Paul Flammond (Michael Gough), is being held prisoner by the government and is being forced to design the type of secret weapons that are always at the heart of espionage adventures like this one.  When Nick and Hillary meet, it’s love at first sight.  Nick gets involved in the plan to save Hillary’s father and to thwart the insidious plans of the East German government.  He also finds the time to sing a lot of songs.

The plot of Top Secret! isn’t really easy to describe.  That’s largely because there really isn’t a plot in a conventional sense.  Instead, there’s just one joke after another.  The dialogue is purposefully nonsensical.  The visuals are full of odd details.  The jokes are frequently hilarious and, because they’re so fast and relentless, they’re also next to impossible to adequately describe.  Much of the visual humor simply has to be seen to be understood and appreciated.  For instance, it may sound slightly humorous to say that a scene features a stern-looking army officer answering a giant phone but you have to actually see the film to truly understand just how brilliantly Top Secret! pulls off the gag.

Of course, what really makes the film is work is Val Kilmer, who is young, handsome, and incredibly likable in the role of Nick.  Kilmer delivers every bizarre line with a straight face and an enthusiastic earnestness that makes him the perfect center for all the craziness raging around him.

How silly can you get?  Watch Top Secret! and find out!

Film Review: Top Gun (dir by Tony Scott)


Oh, where to even begin with Top Gun?

First released in 1986, Top Gun is a film that pretty much epitomizes a certain style of filmmaking.  Before I wrote this review, I did a little research and I actually read some of the reviews that were published when Top Gun first came out.  Though it may be a considered a classic today, critics in 1986 didn’t care much for it.  The most common complaint was that the story was trite and predictable.  The film’s reliance on style over substance led to many critics complaining that the film was basically just a two-hour music video.  Some of the more left-wing critics complained that Top Gun was essentially just an expensive commercial for the military industrial complex.  Director Oliver Stone, who released the antiwar Platoon the same year as Top Gun, said in an interview with People magazine that the message of Top Gun was, “If I start a war, I’ll get a girlfriend.”

Oliver Stone was not necessarily wrong about that.  The film, as we all know, stars Tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a cocky young Navy flyer who attends the TOPGUN Academy, where he competes with Iceman (Val Kilmer) for the title of Top Gun and where he also spends a lot of time joking around with everyone’s favorite (and most obviously doomed) character, Goose (Anthony Edwards).  Maverick does get a girlfriend, Charlie (Kelly McGillis), but only after he’s had plenty of chances to show both how reckless and how skilled he can be while flying in a fighter plane.  Though the majority of the film is taken up with scenes of training and volleyball, the end of the film does give Maverick a chance to prove himself in combat when he and Iceman end up fighting a group of ill-defined enemies for ill-defined reasons.  It may not be an official war but it’s close enough.

That said, I think Oliver Stone was wrong about one key thing.  Maverick doesn’t get a girlfriend because he started a war.  He gets a girlfriend because he won a war.  Top Gun is all about winning.  Maverick and Iceman are two of the most absurdly competitive characters in film history and, as I watched the film last weekend, it was really hard not to laugh at just how much Cruise and Kilmer got into playing those two roles.  Iceman and Maverick can’t even greet each other without it becoming a competition over who gave the best “hello.”  By the time the two of them are facing each other in a totally savage beach volleyball match, it’s hard to look at either one of them without laughing.  And yet, regardless of how over-the-top it may be, you can’t help but get caught up in their rivalry.  Cruise and Kilmer are both at their most charismatic in Top Gun and watching the two of them when they were both young and fighting to steal each and every scene, it doesn’t matter that both of them would later become somewhat controversial for their off-screen personalities.  What matters, when you watch Top Gun, is that they’re both obviously stars.

“I’ve got the need for speed,” Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards say as they walk away from their plane.  The same thing could be said about the entire movie.  Top Gun doesn’t waste any time getting to the good stuff.  We know that Maverick is cocky and has father issues because he’s played by Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise always plays cocky characters who have father issues.  We know that Iceman is arrogant because he’s played by Val Kilmer.  We know that Goose is goofy because his nickname is Goose and he’s married to Meg Ryan.  The film doesn’t waste much time on exploring why its characters are the way they are.  Instead, it just accepts them for being the paper-thin characters that they are.  The film understands that the the most important thing is to get them into their jets and sends them into the sky.  Does it matter that it’s sometimes confusing to keep track of who is chasing who?  Not at all.  The planes are sleek and loud.  The men flying them are sexy and dangerous.  The music never stops and the sun never goes down unless the film needs a soulful shot of Maverick deep in thought.  We’ve all got the need for speed.

In so many ways, Top Gun is a silly film but, to its credit, it also doesn’t make any apologies for being silly.  Instead, Top Gun embraces its hyperkinetic and flashy style.  That’s why critics lambasted it in 1986 and that’s why we all love it in 2020.  And if the pilots of Top Gun do start a war — well, it happens.  I mean, it’s Maverick and Iceman!  How can you hold it against them?  When you watch them fly those planes, you know that even if they start World War III, it’ll be worth it.  If the world’s going to end, Maverick’s the one we want to end it.

 

Film Review: Alexander (dir by Oliver Stone)


Before I really get into talking about Oliver Stone’s 2004 film, Alexander, I should acknowledge that there’s about four different version of Alexander floating around.

There’s the widely ridiculed theatrical version, which was released in 2004 and which got terrible reviews in the United States, though it was apparently a bit more popular in Europe.  This version of Alexander was a notorious box office bomb and Oliver Stone’s career has never quite recovered from it.  Though Stone’s still making movies, it’s been a while since he’s really been taken as seriously as you might expect a two-time Oscar winner to be taken.  The box office and critical failure of Alexander is a big reason for that.

There’s also the Director’s Cut of Alexander, which is slightly shorter than the version that was released into theaters and which apparently emphasizes the action scenes more than the original film did.  For an Oscar-winning director to release a director’s cut that’s actually shorter than the version that he originally sent into theaters is rare and it shows that the film’s subject matter was one that Stone was still trying to figure out how to deal with.

There is also the “Final Unrated Cut,” which lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes and which Stone described as being the Cecil B. DeMille-version of the story.  At the time the Final Unrated Cut was released in 2007, Stone announced that he had put everything back into the movie and that we were finally able to see the version of the story that he wanted to tell.

However, Stone apparently still left some stuff out because, in 2009, we got the Final Cut, which goes on for 206 minutes and which, once again, apparently includes everything that Stone wanted to put in the original cut of the film.  The Final Cut has actually received some positive reviews from critic who were not impressed by the previous three versions of Alexander.

For the record, I saw the Director’s Cut.  This is the second of the Alexanders, the one that runs 167 minutes.  Some day, I’ll watch the four hour version and I’ll compare the two films.  But for now, I’m reviewing the 167-minute version of Alexander.

Anyway, Alexander is a biopic of Alexander The Great, the Macedonian ruler who took over a good deal of the known world before mysteriously dying at the age of 32.  The film jumps back and forth in time, from an elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins, going about as overboard as one can go while playing an ancient Greek historian) narrating the story of Alexander’s life to Alexander (Colin Farrell) conquering his enemies to scenes of Alexander’s mother (Angelina Jolie) and one-eyed father (Val Kilmer) shaping Alexander’s outlook on the world.  Along the way, we discover that Alexander was driven to succeed and forever lived in the shadow of his father.  We also discover that he may have been in love with his general, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), even though he married Roxane (Rosario Dawson, who gets to do an elaborate dance).  We also discover that no battle in the ancient world could begin before Alexander gave a long speech and that all of the Macedonians spoke with thick Irish accents.  Stone has said that the Irish accents were meant to signify that the Macedonians were working-class.  Other people say that, because Colin Farrell’s accent was so thick, the rest of the cast had to imitate him so he wouldn’t sound out-of-place.

And here’s the thing — yes, Alexander is a big, messy film that is often incoherent.  Yes, the cast is full of talented actors, every single one of which has been thoroughly miscast.  Yes, it’s next to impossible to keep track of who is fighting who and yes, it’s distracting as Hell that all of the Macedonians have Irish accents and that Angelina Jolie uses an Eastern European accent that’s so thick that it almost becomes a parody of itself.  All of these things are true and yet, I was never bored with the director’s cut.  The sets were huge, the costumes were beautiful, and the cast was eccentric enough to be interesting.  Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, and Anthony Hopkins all go overboard, chewing every piece of scenery that they can get their hands on.  Colin Farrell alternates between being determined and being wild-eyed.  Jared Leto allows his piercing stare to do most of his acting.  Even Christopher Plummer shows up, playing Aristole with a North Atlantic accent.  No one appears to be acting in the same film and strangely, it works.  The ancient world was chaotic and the combination of everyone’s different acting styles with Stone’s frantic direction actually manages to capture some of that chaos.

Oliver Stone apparently spent years trying to bring his vision of Alexander’s life to the big screen.  Watching the film, it’s a classic example of a director becoming so obsessed with a story that they ultimately forgot why they wanted to tell it in the first place.  Stone tosses everything he can at the cinematic wall, just to see what will stick.  Is Alexander a tyrant or a misunderstood humanist?  Is he a murderer or a noble warrior?  Is he in love with Hephaistion or has his borderline incestuous relationship with his mother left him incapable of trusting anyone enough to love them?  The film doesn’t seem to know who Alexander actually was but it’s so desperate to try to find an answer among all of the endless battle scenes and lengthy speeches that it becomes undeniably compelling to watch.  If nothing else, Alexander gives us the rare chance to see an Oliver Stone film in which Stone himself doesn’t seem to quite know what point it is that he’s trying to make.

Alexander is a mess but there’s something fascinating about its chaos.  It’s a beautiful wreck and, as with all wrecks, it’s impossible to look away.

Here’s The Super Bowl Spot For Top Gun: Maverick!


Here it is!  The Top Gun: Maverick Super Bowl spot!

This spot admittedly doesn’t really tell you a lot about the film.  Tom Cruise is back, but we already knew that.  Val Kilmer shows up for a second or two.  Lots of airplanes, of course.  And really, that’s probably all that this preview needed to be effective.

 

Trailer – Top Gun: Maverick


Maverick is back in the skies in Top Gun: Maverick. In the newly released trailer, it looks like Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is still flying after all these years, which explains why he isn’t an Admiral by now. He still has that old motorcycle, though it looks like he rides a newer one and we’re seeing F-18 Hornets in combat, which should be cool. Tomcats are also still in flight, bless the angels.

Not much is known about Top Gun: Maverick save that Christopher McQuarrie (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Mission Impossible: Fallout) has the writing duties here along with a few others. The directing duties are tied to Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy). Kosinski and Cruise also worked together on Oblivion.

Top Gun: Maverick also stars Academy Award Winner Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris and Val Kilmer.

The movie will be released in theatres next Summer.

Enjoy.

Film Review: The Snowman (dir by Tomas Alfredson)


So, I finally watched the 2018 thriller, The Snowman, and my main reaction to the film is that it featured a lot of snow.

That’s understandable, of course.  The film takes place in Norway and it’s called The Snowman so, naturally, I wasn’t expecting a lot of sunshine.  Still, after a while, the constant shots of the snow-covered landscape start to feel like almost some sort of an inside joke.  It’s almost as if the film is daring you to try to find one blade of grass in Norway.  Of course, the snow is important because the film’s about a serial killer who builds snowmen at the sites of his crimes.  They’re usually pretty big snowmen as well.  It’s hard not to be a little impressed by the fact that he could apparently make such impressive snowmen without anyone noticing.

Along with the snow, the other thing that I noticed about this movie is that apparently no one knows how to flip a light switch in Norway.  This is one of those films where every scene seems to take place in a dark room.  I found myself worrying about everyone’s eyesight and I was surprised the everyone in the film wasn’t wearing glasses.  I can only imagine how much strain that puts on the eyes when you’re constantly trying to read and look for clues in the dark.

Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole, a Norwegian police inspector who may be troubled but still gets results!  He’s upset because his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has a new boyfriend (Jonas Karlsson).  He’s also upset because his son (Michael Yates) doesn’t know that Harry is actually his father.  Or, at least, I think that Harry’s upset.  It’s hard to tell because Fassbender gives a performance that’s almost as cold as the snow covering the Norwegian ground.  Of course, he’s always watchable because he’s Fassbender.  But, overall, he doesn’t seem to be particularly invested in either the role or the film.

Harry and his new partner (Rebecca Ferguson) are investigating a missing person’s case, which quickly turns into a multiple murder mystery.  It turns out that the crimes are linked to a bunch of old murders, all of which were investigated by a detective named Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer).  Gert was troubled but he still got results!  Or, at least, Harry thinks that he may have gotten results.  Nine years ago, Rafto died under mysterious circumstances…

Now, I have to admit that when, 30 minutes into the film, the words “9 years earlier” flashed on the screen, I groaned a bit.  I mean, it seemed to me that the movie was already slow enough without tossing in a bunch of flashbacks.  However, I quickly came to look forward to those brief flashbacks, mostly because they featured Val Kilmer in total IDGAF mode.  Kilmer stumbles through the flashbacks, complete with messy hair and a look of genuine snarky bemusement on his face.  Kilmer gives such a weird and self-amused performance that his brief scenes are the highlight of the film.

Before it was released, The Snowman was hyped as a potential Oscar contender.  After the movie came out and got roasted by the critics, director Tomas Alfredson replied that the studio forced him to rush through the production and that 10 to 15% of the script went unfilmed.  Considering Alfredson’s superior work on Let The Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The film’s disjointed style would certainly seem to back up Alfredson’s claim that there was originally meant to be more to the film than actually ended up on the screen.

The Snowman is one of those films that doesn’t seem to be sure what it wants to be.  At times, it aspires to David Lynch-style surrealism while, at other times, it seems to be borrowing from the morally ambiguous crime films of Taylor Sheridan.  Ultimately, it’s a confused film that doesn’t seem to have much reason for existing.  At the same time, I’ve also been told that the Jo Nesbø novel upon which the movie is based is excellent.  The same author also wrote the novel that served as the basis for 2011’s Headhunters, which was pretty damn good.  So, read the book and ignore the film.

New Orleans Film Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (dir by Werner Herzog)


“Do you think fish dream?”

— Terrence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Happy Mardi Gras!

Since today is not only Fat Tuesday but also rapidly coming to a close, I think it’s time for me to share one final New Orleans film review.  Admittedly, though this film takes place and was filmed in New Orleans, it doesn’t feature any Mardi Gras scenes.  However, it does feature a lead performance that is perhaps as bizarre as anything that you’re likely to see in the French Quarter tonight.  Of course, I’m talking about Werner Herzog’s 2009 film, Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans.

Whenever I mention this movie to anyone, it only takes a few minutes before they get around to saying, “What was the deal with the iguanas?”  Everyone remembers the two iguanas who would randomly show up throughout the movie.  At one point, they were sitting in a coffee table while Lt. Terrence McDonagh (Nicholas Cage) and Sgt. Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) were watching a house across the street.  When McDonagh demanded to know why the iguanas were on his coffee table, Pruit replied, “There ain’t no iguanas.”  McDonagh looked down at them and grinned.  This was followed by several hand-held close-ups of the iguanas, looking around inquisitively while McDonagh kept giving them the side eye.

The iguanas show up a second time, after McDonagh has tricked one gangster into killing another gangster.  “Shoot him again,” McDonagh demands, “his soul’s still dancing!”  Herzog pans over to show us that, indeed, the man’s soul is still dancing next to his corpse.  After the soul gets shot down, an iguana wanders across the floor.

What do the iguanas represent?  Some people think that they actually are meant to be hallucinations.  As the result of a back injury that he received saving a prisoner during Hurricane Katrina, McDonagh has permanent back problems and this has led to him getting hooked on drugs.  The perpetually high McDonagh sees and does a lot of bizarre things over the course of this movie.  Perhaps the iguanas are just a part of his addiction.

Myself, I think the iguanas represent the fact that, no matter what McDonagh and anyone else in New Orleans does over the course of the film, the randomness of nature is going win out in the end.  After all, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans opens with Katrina, which is perhaps the ultimate example of how helpless modern society is in the face of nature’s whims.  The film takes places in neighborhoods that have yet to recover from the flooding.  Every corner of the film is full of physical, emotional, and mental debris.  McDonagh pops pills and snorts cocaine in an attempt to maintain some semblance of control but ultimately, the iguanas are going to show up regardless of how much control he thinks he has.  Just as how Klaus Kinski, at the end of Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, couldn’t keep the monkeys off of his raft, Terrence McDonagh can’t keep the iguanas off of his coffee table.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans apparently started life as a reboot of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film, Bad Lieutenant.  The script (which was credited to William M. Finkelstein) is full of moments that mirror scenes from Ferrara’s film.  Once again, the protagonist is a corrupt police lieutenant who spends almost the entire film fucked up on drugs and whose only friend is a prostitute.  Again, there’s a disturbing scene in which the lieutenant harasses a young woman in a parking lot.  Again, the lieutenant has gambling debts and again, the lieutenant has to solve a horrifying crime.

While promoting his film, Herzog always said that 1) he had never seen Bad Lieutenant and 2) he didn’t even know who Abel Ferrara was.  Judging from the way Herzog directs the film, which is the complete opposite of the approach that Ferrara took to similar material, I’m inclined to believe Herzog.  Whereas Ferrara’s film was a grim and humorless plunge into the depths of Hell, Herzog takes an almost satirical approach to the story.  The running joke throughout Herzog’s film is that the bad lieutenant gets results precisely because he is so thoroughly messed up and incompetent.  The final part of Herzog’s film features so many sudden twists and turns that it’s hard not to conclude that Herzog is poking fun at how American crime films always have to wrap everything up within the final fifteen minutes, regardless of how messy or convoluted their plots may be.  Whereas Ferrara’s film featured Harvey Keitel naked and bellowing in soul-searing pain, Herzog gives us Nicolas Cage grinning, laughing, and apparently having a ball.

This has got to be one of Nicolas Cage’s wildest performances.  He yells.  He bulges his eyes.  He grins maniacally at the strangest moments.  He interrogates a suspect while taking hits off a joint.  Because his character has a bad back, Cage moves stiffly, carrying himself almost as if he were a living Golem.  McDonagh may have his demons but, at the same time, he also seems to be having a blast every time we see him.  Wisely, Herzog also allows the character some quieter moments.  When the lieutenant talks about how he used to imagine there was pirate treasure buried in his back yard or when he and an ex-con sit in front of a gigantic fish tank, Cage gets a chance to show that there actually is something going on underneath all of McDonagh’s bluster.  This not only one of Cage’s most over the top performances but also one of his best.

Herzog not only gets the best out of Cage but also the best out of New Orleans.  He may not make New Orleans look beautiful but he still captures the atmosphere that has made New Orleans one of the most legendary cities in the world.  Cage, Herzog, and New Orleans make for a great combination.