TIFF Report: Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant

Moving from film to film can be draining, and I have to confess fatigue is settling in as the festival hits the midway point. Seeing four and five films a day is tough work (honest) and when you are moving between the screenings to go do interviews with the actors and directors, you have to stay sharp.

Strong coffee, and lots of it works for me.

Nicolas Cage gives a hugely entertaining and wildly over the top performance in Werner Herzog's remake of Bad Lieutenant and though the film in no way approaches the nastiness of the original, Cage keeps us on our toes with a performance that consistently walks the line. Cage has always been one of the most courageous actors working in movies, willing to go big for a part, even if it means going too big and looking ridiculous as he did in Peggy Sue Got Married. Here he always pulls back when he appears to getting out of line, and he walks that line to utter perfection.

His character is a cop in New Orleans in the days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. When a family is found massacred he is assigned to the case, despite suffering from intense back pain that sees him addicted to pain killers, not to mention an array of other drugs he does for fun. Cocaine, crack and pot are the ones we see most often, but this cop is addicted to something far more dangerous: Power. And that in the hands of a man that is high and wielding a 44 magnum is a dangerous thing.

He regularly terrorizes young men and women he stops outside a nightclub, and seems to care for no one until he shows some heart and puts his girlfriend in hiding after she is beaten up and threatened by some business people they both cross. At one point in the film he has crossed a murderous contractor, partnered with a drug lord, over extended himself with his bookie, and been reported for roughing up an elderly lady who has a son in the U.S. Congress.

Cage is energetic as always but there is a sad intensity to his performance as well, something that pulls us in and keeps us cheering for this guy. He tries to do the right thing, he wants to do the right thing, but doing it often means breaking the law to get it done.

Herzog's film is loaded with metaphors, lizards and alligators, and is suitably bizarre, but anchored by Cage's tremendous performance which ranks among the the best work of his career.

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