This movie begins in interesting fashion: Flood waters rising and a prisoner trapped in a cell.
Nicolas Cage and Val Kilmer come upon the man and start taking bets as to how long it’ll take for him to drown. The man continues to scream for help, only for Cage to inform him he’s wearing $55 Swiss Cotton Underwear and he’d be goddamned if he gets them wet.
Then, suddenly, Cage has a change of heart, and saves the man. The movie cuts away once he dives into the water, but in the darkness it’s inferred that he saves the man but severely injured his back.
Already, we have a bit of a mystery. Is Cage already on cocaine to start the movie and, if so, did he jump in and save someone in order to both injure himself and warrant a promotion to make it easier to avoid drug tests? It’d make sense. The character is that crazy.
Like director Werner Herzog, I’ve never seen the original Bad Lieutenant. But this movie’s good enough for me.
I love watching Cage go completely off the deep end (as oppposed to kind-of-off-the-deep-end-but-it’s-still-a-PG-Disney-adventure in Sorceror’s Apprentice), and the fact that he’s allowed to completely get back in touch with the person from Wild at Heart and Con Air and Face/Off is awesome to watch. Plus, because he’s on crack/cocaine/heroine/weed/Vicodin, he can take even farther off the edge. This is one character that I truly hope he wasn’t method acting for.
The main drug kingpin is played by Xzibit, the host of MTV’s Pimp My Ride (and I think he was a rapper at some point), and he’s basically playing himself. He postures as a drug kingpin so this was a really easy role for him. If it had actually required him to stretch outside of his comfort zone, I’m not entirely sure how well it would’ve worked. But it works nonetheless.
It’s honestly fascinating just how many big-name actors they got for this movie–Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer. I mean, it always surprises me when actors don’t shy away from subject matter, as in other batshit movies about drugs and deprivation, but this one especially. Everyone’s basically asked to be an asshole. It’s kind of awesome.
And there’s this weird paradoxical empathy going on in the film. See, Cage’s character is an absolute asshole. The opposite of anything you’d want in both a cop and a person. But, somewhere along the line you begin to empathize with his plights. The last person you should be rooting for, you wind up rooting for. Like, he starts off in such a shitty place, you want nothing else than for him to go upward.
Then the descent continues–most of it at his own hand–and this should turn you off to a character who’s stubborn and driven only by his addictions. But, somewhere in there, we are shown that he’s still a good cop however unethical his methods may be. Suddenly, you want to see this character at least level off back to just being a crack addicted police lieutenant.
I was only a little disappointed by the experience because I had already seen some of the more crazy moments that this film is known for–and not its more or less subdued moments, or well shot iguana-cam. That’s the problem with YouTube and holding off on seeing a movie whose more famous scenes have been passed around: you expect more of the same only to get something completely different. And it takes a second to adjust when that happens.
This movie isn’t all batshit drug scenes, some of it is actually kind of heartfelt and inverse-sad–like, they’re sad for the wrong reason (like one of the last scenes before the epilogue between Mendes and Cage). It’s interesting how much your allegiances change during the runtime of this film.