Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Extreme "bad cop" depravity is definitely family-unfriendly.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No positive messages here. The hero is a terrible role model who avoids trouble thanks to luck and bad behavior, rather than redemption or realization. The movie's ambiguous ending suggests some kind of redemption, but it's most likely false.
Positive Role Models
Definitely no positive role models. Main character McDonagh indulges in just about every type of bad behavior in the book -- swearing, drug addiction, sex with multiple partners, gambling, cheating, stealing, blackmail, threats, bribes, and just about anything else you can think of -- with no real consequences; he gets out of trouble with a combination of luck and more bad behavior. Even when shows himself to be reformed in public, in private he slips back into his old patterns. The only note of hope involves his girlfriend, who truly seems committed to changing her life.
Violence & Scariness
Characters pull and fire guns, and there are a few fistfights, but the bulk of the violence is verbal: characters exploding in rage and frustration and threatening others. Viewers also see the aftermath of a murderous crime scene, with bodies strewn about, and there's a fatal shootout that involves blood and falling bodies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Hardly any nudity shown, but there's plenty of sex talk and sexual situations, mostly dangerous and illicit. The main character visits his prostitute girlfriend several times while she's with "clients"; a pair of gangsters discusses having sex with her as payment on a debt that he owes. The same character attempts to sleep with a pretty traffic cop; she strips to her underwear and crawls onto the bed, but he's passed out. In another scene, after the main character busts a young couple, the girl offers him sexual favors, which he accepts -- they include kissing, grinding, and touching of private parts with hands (though again, no real nudity is shown).
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A constant barrage of "f--k" and "s--t" in all their variations (including the favorite: "s---bird"), plus a few uses of the "N" word ... as well as just about every other word in the book.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character is addicted to painkillers (Vicodin), cocaine, and heroin and drinks alcohol at all hours of the day. His girlfriend also takes drugs. His father is a recovering alcoholic, and his father's wife is a beer-drinking alcoholic. Drug dealers are everywhere, and various drugs are often on display. Occasionally, the main character experiences weird hallucinations that feature various swamp creatures and reptiles. No children are shown involved with drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (an unofficial remake of 1992's Bad Lieutenant), is far too dark and depraved for kids, even most teens. It centers on a post-Katrina New Orleans police lieutenant/junkie (Nicolas Cage) who curses, steals, issues bribes, gambles, threatens people, associates with thugs, has sex with multiple partners, engages in needless violence, dates a prostitute, and is generally an out and out lowlife. It can all be traced to an injury he sustained while rescuing a drowning prisoner during the hurricane, but the movie suggests that he was a scoundrel even before then. The film does offer a hint of redemption, though what kind and how effective it will be is pretty ambiguous.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
During Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans cop Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) grudgingly rescues a soon-to-be-drowned prisoner. The act promotes him to lieutenant but also injures his back. Enduring constant pain, he becomes addicted to painkillers and other drugs and begins behaving very badly (though he was really no prize before). While on the trail of a murderer, he bribes and threatens people, visits his prostitute girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes), steals drugs from the evidence room, upsets some gangsters, loses a bet with a local bookie, blackmails a football player, and forms an alliance with a local thug -- all while trying to deal with his alcoholic father and stepmother. Will Terence learn a lesson here, or is he too far gone?
Is It Any Good?
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS will appeal to fans who know the work of German-born maverick director Werner Herzog. And indeed, the new film has much in common with some of Herzog's crazed past masterworks like Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). The drawback is that fans of equally crazed maverick filmmaker Abel Ferrara will compare it to the original 1992 film Bad Lieutenant and find the new one lacking (though the two films really have very little in common).
Ultimately, enjoyment of the new movie will rest on viewers' willingness to succumb to intense, loony, personal filmmaking as well as extreme subject matter with lots of drugs, swearing, violence, and sex). Those who do may find themselves laughing at the same time that their jaws drop to the floor at the movie's sheer audacity and envelope pushing. But those who don't may find the movie pointless or even offensive.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the violence in this movie compares to others they've seen. Does it have more or less impact than bloodier films? Why?
How does the movie portray addiction? What are the real-life consequences of drinking and taking drugs?
Discuss the initial act of bravery that got McDonagh into this mess. Do you think he'd have done it again if he had known what would happen? Does this act mean that there's a tiny glimmer of goodness in him?
Despite all his bad behavior, McDonagh really seems to love his girlfriend and goes out of his way to protect her. Does this mean that, aside from his numerous other faults, he has a hint of selflessness?
- In theaters: November 20, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: April 6, 2010
- Cast: Eva Mendes, Nicolas Cage, Val Kilmer
- Director: Werner Herzog
- Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
- Studio: First Look Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug use and language throughout, some violence and sexuality
- Last updated: June 29, 2022
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