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Film / The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

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McDonagh: Shoot him again!
Midget: What for?
McDonagh: His soul's still dancing...!
(Pan over to the "soul" doing a big break dance)

[The] Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, made in 2009 by Werner Herzog, follows Terrence McDonagh (played by Nicolas Cage), a police officer in post-Katrina New Orleans, as he investigates the deaths of five Senegalese immigrants connected to a drug ring. While tracking down drug kingpin "Big Fate", McDonagh engages in his vices of gambling, drugs and sex (sometimes at the same time), getting high off of everything from marijuana to prescription painkillers and betting heavily on football games.

The film is openly inspired by the 1992 crime drama Bad Lieutenant by Abel Ferrara (which was set in New York). Both films showcase the same basic character, but the two movies are different enough that Herzog rejected the label of "remake" being applied to his film. Ferrara's Lieutenant and McDonagh are also somewhat dissimilar, with the Lieutenant having actual feelings of regret and remorse about his actions, while McDonagh just indulges in his habits more and more, using his position to get him whatever he wants.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: The second time Cage plays a character with the last name McDonagh.
  • Anti-Hero: McDonaugh. He's on the side of good and working to solve the murders, but he comes this close to almost being a villain in his own right. He's corrupt (accepting bribes to look the other way on "minor" crimes), a drug and gambling addict, steals from other cops and suspects, tortures people he interrogates, and blackmails female suspects to have sex with him. He still loves his family and girlfriend, and draws the line at point blank murder. The circumstances that caused him to become a drug addict in the first place are also somewhat tragic.
  • Babies Ever After: At the film's end, we see that Frankie is pregnant.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: The NOPD. Most of the other detectives aren't anywhere near as bad as McDonagh (except, perhaps, Stevie), but they do cover for him and some of them are even complicit in his crimes.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: How McDonagh gets rid of the gangsters an angry real estate mogul has set on him. McDonagh has formed an alliance with a more dangerous group of drug traffickers when the former burst in to collect the 50 grand they're extorting from McDonagh. They get too greedy when they try to steal from the traffickers as well, prompting Big Fate and his crew to waste all of them.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: The chief roadblock to cracking the case.
  • Black Comedy: In case you didn't realize: it's a comedy. Probably.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: It's an Open Secret in the NOPD that McDonagh is a Functional Addict, but since he's very effective at his job, they let him get away with it. He's twice promoted throughout the film, first for rescuing a prisoner's life during Hurricane Katrina, and then for solving a triple homicide and taking down a major drug gang. Also, one of the reasons he uses drugs is to deal with his back pain.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Nicolas Cage plus massive amounts of drugs equals this.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: McDonagh, due in part to drug-induced hallucinations.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: More so than the Ferrara version.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Drug-starved McDonagh harasses a couple and illegally searches them for drugs. The girl, who has a pipe and a stash on her, shotguns with him to avoid any trouble. It turns into a bit of tongue wrestling that spirals into them pants-less and bumping bits in front of her boyfriend on the hood of his car. But what really nails this scene is when the disgusted boyfriend tries to leave and McDonagh shoots his gun in the air and orders his audience to keep watching.
  • Colon Cancer: Werner Herzog wanted to call the film Port of Call: New Orleans, but the producers wanted to call the film The Bad Lieutenant (they had purchased remake rights to the 1992 film Bad Lieutenant and wanted to make a franchise). Eventually they came to a compromise and combined both titles into one.
  • Creator Cameo: The screenwriter, William Finkelstein, appears as one of the gangsters sent to kill McDonagh by Frankie's disgruntled client.
  • Crime After Crime: Terrence McDonagh, this is your life.
  • Da Chief: Captain Brasser. Downplayed since he knows that McDonagh is a great cop despite being a Defective Detective and supports him when he can, it's more that the department in general frowns on Cowboy Cop antics. Plus, McDonagh does do some genuinely heinous shit that he deserves to be called out for, if not being booted out of the force.
  • Denser and Wackier: Compared to the original Bad Lieutenant, this movie has more Black Comedy and general weirdness. Ferrara's movie had no hallucinatory reptiles.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Stevie, who can nonchalantly show he has zero redeeming qualities without any trouble (at least McDonagh has redeeming qualities...sorta).
  • Dirty Cop: McDonagh. Though Stevie, amusingly enough, out-dirties him.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The film really has no connection to Bad Lieutenant other than featuring somewhat similar protagonists. Werner Herzog originally devised a film about a Dirty Cop set in New Orleans, but his production partners wanted to somehow tie it to the older film about a Dirty Cop (which like all of Abel Ferrara's works, is set in The Big Rotten Apple), for which they had purchased the rights and were angling for a franchise. While both are pretty gritty crime films with borderline-Villain Protagonists, Werzog's version is considerably Denser and Wackier, veering into Black Comedy at times.
  • Emasculated Cuckold: McDonagh drives up to a young couple after they get out of a nightclub with drugs on them. McDonagh extorts sexual favors from the girl and makes out with her right in front of her boyfriend while they both smoke crack. When the boyfriend finally tries to leave out of disgust, McDonagh forces him to stay and watch.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The opening five minutes of the movie, in which McDonagh taunts a helpless prisoner stuck in rising water before rescuing him (thus throwing out his back), establish two things about him - he's an asshole, and more importantly he will do literally anything that comes to mind.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: McDonagh finally draws the line at flat-out murdering Big Fate.
  • Fair Cop: The Dirty Cop protagonist hooks up with a hot highway patrol cop he's aquainted with. She even keeps the boots on.
  • Fixing the Game: McDonagh catches a star college quarterback buying pot and blackmails him into shaving points on his next game. The quarterback can't bring himself to do it and fakes an injury to get out of the game, but his team still fails to beat the spread anyway.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: See exhibit A on the right side.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: How McDonagh gets Big Fate.
  • Functional Addict: McDonagh, although he's always in danger of stepping over the fine line between "functional" and "non-functional."
  • Gainax Ending: The film ends with McDonagh and the guy he saved in the film's beginning hanging out in an aquarium, with McDonagh high as a kite and wondering if fish have dreams. The scene before it establishes that the guy is going to help McDonaugh with his addiction so it's not completely oblique, but the aquarium thing still comes out of nowhere.
  • The Gambling Addict: McDonagh.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: McDonagh and Stevie play this while interviewing potential witnesses. (Except they're not playing: Stevie really was going to start beating that guy up.)
  • Hand Cannon/Revolvers Are Just Better: McDonagh carries the legendary .44 Magnum.
  • Hardboiled Detective: McDonagh. Sort of. His being a total Cloudcuckoolander makes for a weird example of the trope.
  • The Hedonist: McDonagh, whose pursuits mostly consist of getting high and getting laid. When they say he's "bad," they're not kidding around.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: McDonagh's friend Frankie.
  • Hookers and Blow: And pot...and crack...and smack...
  • In Name Only: Herzog outright stated that Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was neither a sequel nor a remake of 1992's Bad Lieutenant. Didn't stop Ferrara from screaming that everyone involved in this film should die.
  • Karma Houdini: McDonagh spends the entire movie taking advantages of every single person and changing allegiances as soon as he can see a benefit, but in the span of 15 minutes he arrests the bad guy, gets the despots after him killed, pays off all his gambling debts, gets promoted to Captain, gets his girlfriend, father and step-mother clean from their personal addiction, has a baby on the way and hasn't changed one bit. If that's not evading karma, I don't know what is.
    • Don't forget Stevie, especially considering his crimes are probably worse.
  • Kavorka Man: Cage plays McDonagh like Richard Nixon mixed with Laurence Olivier's version of Richard III, yet he still has Eva Mendes and Fairuza Balk falling all over themselves to get him into bed.
  • Killer Cop: Stevie.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The ending.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the original Bad Lieutenant. The fact that, despite the differences in the main plot, the scenarios Terrance is in (especially the gambling subplot) often invoke the older film can cause one to suspect this film's a parody of the other. The trope is brought up to eleven when everything works out for Terrance in the end—including the game!
  • Mushroom Samba: "What are these fucking IGUANAS doing on my COFFEE TABLE?!?" "There are no iguanas on your coffee table...."
    • And in a more literal use of the trope, "His soul is still dancing." Granted, it's not a samba, but, whatever....
  • My Girl Is a Slut: See Hooker with a Heart of Gold.
  • The Oner: When arresting a suspect who's holed up in his house, McDonaugh orders his unit to keep their guns trained on the front door. Then the camera follows him as he circles around through the neighbor's adjacent house, enters through the back door, puts his gun right against the back of the suspect's head, and marches him out right through the front door.
  • Police Brutality: McDonagh loves to stick his Hand Cannon in people's faces and there's a scene where he deprives an elderly woman of oxygen in order to get her nurse to talk.
  • Quick Nip: McDonagh does this all the time. At one point, he lights up a joint while interviewing a suspect...with half his squad standing just behind the door.
  • Rabid Cop: McDonagh starts turning into one over the course of the film.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: McDonagh's operating principle. Things get hairy when he starts abusing people whose relatives can say Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!
  • The "The" Title Confusion
  • Title Drop: A partial example, or an entire one if you go by the film's original title.
    Chavez: Are you still working with the police department?
    McDonaugh: Port of call still New Orleans.
  • Unishment: McDonagh's punishment for using excessive force against an elderly woman on oxygen? He's temporarily reassigned to the evidence room, which just allows him to steal whatever drugs he likes without having to go looking for addicts to rob.
  • Would Harm a Senior: Lieutenant McDonagh (our hero, folks) assaults an old woman by withholding her oxygen supply since he needs some information from her friend. They file a report against him, but he gets away with it in the end.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: McDonagh starts playing this toward the end of the movie. Especially impressive, since he was high on at least three different controlled substances at the time.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: It's implied that Big Fate was planning on ending his partnership with McDonagh prematurely when he points his undertabled shotgun at him. Turns into a Chekhov's Gun when he's forced to use it on a different group of criminals.

Alternative Title(s): Bad Lieutenant Port Of Call New Orleans