PictureStylistically, the majority of Werner Herzog’s movies are never going to be capable of offering benchmark visuals, which would show off the capabilities of your home cinema equipment. And Bad Lieutenant is no exception. Presented here in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.85:1, the Blu-ray boasts a 1080p High Definition video that perfectly renders Herzog’s stylish film for your viewing pleasure. Sure, this may mean a variable twinge of softness, a noticeable sheen of grain and a colour scheme that is never particularly eye-popping – but what else did you expect from the offbeat, indie-borne material. Detail is generally perfectly acceptable, the level of grain lends the production a suitably filmic aura, and the colour scheme appears to be in-line with both the setting and the subject matter. The black levels fluctuate somewhat, and darker-lit sequences suffer as a result (conversely, the daytime shots often boast a bit too much ‘glare’) but there is little to complain about with this video presentation when you consider the movie that it is presenting. Bad Lieutenant’s a pretty dirty, gritty film after all, what did you expect? 3D pop?
SoundOn the aural front the material is still quite restrictive, but not quite as much as with the visual style of the production, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track certainly coming across as immersive enough to get you involved in the proceedings. Dialogue is generally presented clearly and coherently, largely emanating from the frontal array – with only a few moments where you might find yourself reaching for that remote to counter the arguably mumble-laden side to Cage’s lilt. The effects are mostly ambient – sure there are some gunshots, doors being kicked in and so forth – but we get much more focus on the smaller or more ambient stuff: passing cars and unusual funeral rites offering up a warm ambience that suits the post-Katrina environment. Of course, the thing that will stick in your head is the crazy score, an eclectic mix of sombre, threatening tones, chirpy, out-of-place beats and wacky harmonica riffs. It’s pure Creole, but not in an old-fashioned sense, coming across as fresh and unique, and perfectly suiting Herzog’s style, even if – like the visuals – this often seems at odds with the content.
ExtrasFans will surely be crying out over the lack of extra features for this disc. Not having an Audio Commentary from either Herzog or Cage – or even both! – is a totally missed opportunity, and there really is no excuse. It would have been nice to hear more from these guys about what they thought about their creation, about the nuances Cage brought to the role, and the direction in which Herzog took the subject-matter. It’s a great shame, and the extras that are present – a single Featurette, and a selection of Interviews – are simply not enough for this kind of release.
The Making Of Bad Lieutenant Featurette is thankfully at least a little bit meaty, a proper, non-fluffy production video, complete with video-diary presentation, and offering us 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and interview snippets. Herzog reflects on his creation, and on Cage’s performance, and Val Kilmer pops up, along with many of the filmmakers, all adding in their titbits of trivia, but it still does not make up for the lack of full-length commentary.
We also get a selection of Interviews, from the Herzog, Cage, Eva Mendes, Tom Bower, Cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger and Screenwriter Billy Finkelstein. Each lasting just a few minutes, they are still information-packed, most of them reflecting on working in New Orleans, under the direction of Herzog. Cage is by far the most interesting, a slightly aloof character who talks very intelligently yet (largely) without sounding too pretentious. It’s nice hearing about his inner challenge of finding new directions to go in as an actor, portraying intoxicated individuals (and the different techniques he used to bring that to the screen in both Leaving Las Vegas and here in Bad Lieutenant) and working with Eva Mendes again, and the often equally-dedicated Val Kilmer. It’s just a shame that none of them tackle the subject of the original Ferrara movie, or any real depth or insight into this production.
It’s all interesting stuff, but – again – not quite enough to justify the lack of Commentary. There aren’t even any Trailers on the disc – and whilst forced Previews on disc start-up have always been a bane on my life, at least the Theatrical Trailer available from the menu would have been nice.
VerdictNicolas Cage is back! After a decade of selling himself out in lacklustre, often effects-driven Hollywood trash, he has teamed up with acclaimed arthouse Director Werner Herzog’s unofficial reworking of Abel Ferrera’s Bad Lieutenant. Porting the action over to New Orleans, the events are strangely familiar – despite all of the filmmakers’ denials about never having seen the original 1992 Harvey Keitel flick. A notch below even Training Day in terms of shocking events and ‘bad’ behaviour, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans has one major saving grace: Nicolas Cage. On absolute top form, he channels James Stewart, Klaus Kinski and even Hugh Laurie’s enigmatic Dr. House to give us one hell of a lead character – and it is more than enough to push this film into the recommended category. Throw in some unique visuals, and a sporadically successful offbeat vibe, as well as one of the most wonderfully weird scores of the decade, and you have a very good film indeed. Perhaps not destined to be a classic, it will likely always be remembered as The Return of Nicolas Cage, and quite rightly so.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get decent enough visual and aural representations of the indie, gritty/dirty-styled material, which never stretches your Hi-Def equipment, but stays true to the production; as well as a few nice extras which unfortunately do not quite make up for the shameful lack of an accompanying commentary. Fans of the movie should consider this a reasonable purchase – certainly no better or worse than the US release, it would seem – and newcomers should ask themselves one big question: do I want to see Nicolas Cage’s return? If this question means nothing to you, then this will probably be worth only a rental, if you happen to like the sound of an offbeat crime drama. If the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’ then add this to your cart right now.
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