Werner Herzog’s brilliantly surreal remake (or is it?) of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film is relocated to New Orleans where a corrupt, drug addled cop (Nicolas Cage) finds himself involved with a drug dealer (Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner) who is suspected of murdering a family of African immigrants.
On top of this he struggles to keep his life in check, which includes his prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes); his hot-headed partner (Val Kilmer); a local bookie (Brad Dourif) and all manner of surreal visions.
This sounds like it could be the premise of a conventional crime movie and there are elements of William Finkelstein’s script that bear the hallmarks of the traditional cop procedural. But filtered through the lens of Herzog, we have something different altogether.
As the story progresses Cage’s character takes gargantuan amounts of drugs (coke, heroin, crack), shakes down clubbers and then screws their girlfriends in front of them, runs up huge debts, threatens old age pensioners and does all this wearing an oversize suit with a funny looking revolver.
But this only scratches the surface, as Herzog adds some wildly surreal touches involving iguanas and alligators shot in extreme hand held close-up, whacky interludes involving dogs, horny traffic cops and hilariously over the top dialogue delivered by Cage in a couple of different accents (my favourite lines being “‘Shoot him again! His soul is still dancing!” and “to the break of DAWNNNN!!!!”).
Strange, out of control and defiantly off its head, it seems destined for cult status: appealing to cinephiles and late night stoner audiences.
When I first saw it last year I was unsure if it was a crazy joke or surreal genius. Having seen it again I’m sure it is the latter.
Not only does Herzog filter the material through his own unique mind, but Cage arguably gives his greatest performance in years, which is wild and out of control in all the best ways.
The Blu-ray transfer is crisp and sharp – in many ways a better experience than the print I originally saw it on – and in HD one can really appreciate the visual mood created by Herzog and his regular DOP Peter Zeitlinger.
The extras include interviews with the cast and key crew as well as a substantial 30 minute making of featurette which goes behind certain sequences, interviewing the key talent.
Most of it consists of Herzog setting up shots, discussing his creative process and we also get some interesting contributions from the cast and crew.
In years people will wonder how one of Europe’s greatest arthouse directors ended up making a film with Nicolas Cage in New Orleans, but they will be grateful for what is a unusually memorable collaboration.