Monday, July 19, 2010

I still hate that I ruined my underwear for you

The Seattle library was kind enough to lend me Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

Then why you acting all crazy for? The pharmacy security steward asks. No answer given. No answer needed. Who knows? Who cares? What is crazy? Go buy everyone a drink.

If you're like me, this film will leave you tickled pink. A "theme" I enjoyed: the art of getting what you want.

Frankie (a call-girl portrayed by Eva Mendes) asks Lieutenant Terrence McDonough (Cage, her "boyfriend"), How come you only call me when you need something? This is one of the film's many questions that go unanswered — and rightfully so, there isn't really an answer. I suppose we're disinclined to think of our relationships as exchanges of goods and services, but that's what they are. Just as Terrence calls on Frankie for passion, companionship, drugs, someone to watch his father's dog, etc., she does the same — although we can replace the dog watching with protecting her from violent johns.

Terrence is pursuing results, the ends do justify his means. He can play it calm and cool or he can go postal — whatever befits the situation. A quick example of his ability to take it easy: His police crew is loading up in front of a suspect's house. Now, instead of blazing through the front door, Terrence opts to go through the neighbors house and enter the suspect's place from the back. So, how does he go about it? He knocks politely on the neighbor's door; when a woman carrying a baby answers, Terrence is quick to say "I need access to the apartment next door, do you mind?" Before she can answer, he turns his attention to the baby, "Awww, it's okay," rubbing the baby's cheeks as he slides past Mom. He doesn't really give her an opportunity to object — despite asking — but he also doesn't act like a dismissive wild man. Effective. He snags the suspect without incident, parading him out the front door to the adoration of his colleagues. "I love it," Terrence announces with a big grin.

If calm and professional works, he'll do it; when that doesn't offer a high probability of success, he'll try other means:

Now, this scene is obviously hysterical. The electric razor creates an ominous "I don't have time for any bullshit" effect better than words could possibly capture. After the nurse claims her grandson doesn't want to be a witness, Terrence sums up compulsive behavior: This is bigger than want to. (Every time he slaps the nurse's hand I crack up.) A little later, after the ladies submit complaints about Terrence's tactics, internal affairs gets on our detective's case. The Captain informs Terrence of the pending investigation, prompting him to hilariously ask, "Oh, come on, they’re going to pull public integrity into this? What for?" The Captain replies, "that old woman, her son is a United States Congressman." Another fun recurring theme: if you fuck with power, expect a power struggle.

Yes, as I've read some people cheer and others jeer, the film is messy — I suppose it was designed to be so, not that I'm overly concerned with artistic intent. There is no direct cause and effect. The opening scene (Terrence sacrifices the quality of his $55 underwear by entering the Katrina flood waters to rescue an up-to-his-neck inmate), perhaps the only selfless act in the film, leads to split consequences: chronic back pain and a promotion. The rest of the film is about adjusting on the fly and taking advantages of opportunities — which isn't to say well-wrought plans won't go to shit. Which also isn't to say things won't work out after the plan goes to shit (this happens several times in his attempts to arrest the "bad guys" — none of the characters are proper villains — and pay off his creditors).

By the end, Terrence is still adapting, but he hasn't discovered any Truth, per se, because there isn't anything for him to find — he's not even looking.


  1. You weave a captivating spell over your film reviews. I'm more interested in your plot development that the film's!

    I'm only familiar with the Harvey Keitel film Bad Lieutenant. Is this some kind of remake or sequel?

  2. Rad (as the kids once said, and now say again because they're "bringin'-it-back"), I'm pleased you dug it.

    I suppose the original was interested in catholics and their guilt fetish. This lieutenant is, seemingly, too occupied to be bothered by guilt — full speed ahead.