Nicolas Cage is one of the most confusing actors, ever. For every amazing performance he has done, there is another hilariously bad one to go along with it. Bad Lieutenant could easily be mistaken for the latter, but thankfully, it's not. Let me get this out of the way, however: this film is as campy as films get, and the director (Werner Herzog) and Cage know this. The problem is, not all viewers will acknowledge this, and will mistaken the intentional campiness for, well, unintentional campiness. Every minute is more ridiculous than the last, but if you look closer, it is also genius. You can tell Cage is just having a blast with his role, and as a viewer, it is a blast to watch him.
A detective, Terrance McDonagh (wonderful last name, har har), suffers a back injury for a deed which earns him a promotion to Lieutenant, but at the same time is the start of his downfall on drugs, sex, and aimless violence in an attempt to cope with his back pain, which he blames his ineffective prescription medicine on. He also becomes a pimp for his girlfriend (Eva Mendas). Oh yeah, he also has to solve a case about a murdered family, but no one really cares about that. Nicolas Cage gives his best performance since Adaptation., and is comparable to his Face/Off performance; his character is completely deranged and insane, and yet hilarious at the same time. Aside from the beginning of the film, if there is a single moment when McDonagh is high on something, I don't know when that is. There are scenes that you literally have to see to believe, and example being when McDonagh cuts off an 80 year-old's oxygen for information, and afterwards threatening to shoot her in the face with a revolver because, well, he can. There are so many moments like this that had me laughing hysterically.
The film also has one of the best and worst endings I've ever seen in my life (if you don't want to know how it ends, skip this paragraph). It's as if the screenwriter thought "How can I solve all of these conflicts in the matter of 45 seconds?" The result was so unreal and ridiculous that I thought it had to be a dream sequence, because there was no way they would have the balls to end it like that. I'm so glad I was wrong. Against all odds, he wins thousands from gambling in football, a psychotic gangster calls truce to their violent feud, and his superior informs him his case has just been solved. Fast forward one year: his girlfriend quit cocaine and prostitution, and is pregnant with their child. McDonagh's Dad and step-mother quit drinking, and to top it off, after all the horrible things he did through out the film, he gets promoted to Captain. For a minute, you are fooled into thinking he has finally cleaned up his act, only to see him strip-searching people by clubs for their drugs again.
Bad Lieutenant is really a love-it-or-hate-it film. If you appreciate intentionally campy movies, this one is a must-see, but it is definitely not for everyone. I definitely plan on owning this one when I get the chance, because I can tell it is one that must be seen multiple times to be truly appreciated.
McDonagh: "Shoot him again."
Gangster: "What for?"
McDonagh: "His soul is still dancing." (hysterical laughter).