Made-for-TV Herzog?

It just so happens that the Badger Herald’s Tony Lewis also wrote about “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” in today’s paper; unsurprisingly, he and I had radically different responses. Lewis writes that “Cage rekindles his cinematic spark to save what would have otherwise been a lifeless made-for-TV crime drama.” He goes on, strangely enough, to take issue with Herzog’s direction:

Unfortunately, Cage’s spot-on performance is about the only thing keeping this film from drowning. Taking an approach similar to the one he took in his previous films, director Werner Herzog (“Rescue Dawn”) expertly focuses on the individual and his attempt to escape his personal prison. While Christian Bale’s prison in “Rescue Dawn” was a literal one, Herzog creates the same agonizing conflict with Cage’s character and his internal prison.

[…] Herzog’s ability to manipulate the cinematography so that it enhances the screenplay keeps the film looking dynamic even when the plot isn’t.

[…] Although “Bad Lieutenant” isn’t anything too out of the ordinary as far as crime dramas go, the one-two punch of Cage’s mesmerizing performance and the ominous, yet vivacious New Orleans cinematography make this film worth taking a shot on.

These remarks suggest a few things.

First, based on his references to “Rescue Dawn,” I suspect Lewis isn’t all that familiar with the rest of Herzog’s work, which is significant only insofar as a lack of familiarity with his idiosyncratic sensibility could easily cause a viewer to miss out on a good deal of what makes “Bad Lieutenant” so compelling and magnetic.

Second, Lewis doesn’t seem to understand that a director like Herzog would never dream of sticking to the script; he likely disregarded the screenplay more often than he “enhanced” it through “manipulations” of the film’s cinematography (I’m not exactly sure what that would even entail).

Third, if “Bad Lieutenant” honestly struck Lewis as being an “ordinary” crime drama, then he must be watching some incredibly far-out cop procedurals and I wish he’d furnish me with a recommendation. Though I’ve never been one to watch C.S.I.S. or N.C.I. or whatever, I seriously doubt that Herzog’s penchant for appealing to the mystical is par for the course.

And rest assured, dear reader: The plot of “Bad Lieutenant” is nothing if not “dynamic.”

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