Who's In It: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner, Jennifer Coolidge, Fairuza Balk, Shawn Hatosy
The Basics: Nic Cage is deliriously, extravagantly strung out on all kinds of drugs as he incorporates what director Werner Herzog calls "the bliss of evil" into his job as a police detective on the trail of dealers who slaughtered an entire family. To get his chemicals he'll steal, rape, lie, whatever it takes to get the next hit. That he sees the souls of the dead and menacing iguanas as he simultaneously gets crazier and more brutal in his dealings with all kinds of bad guys is just proof that drugs are actually helping him do his job and that lawless, broken, post-Katrina New Orleans needs his special brand of reefer--okay, crack and heroin if you're going to be picky about it--madness. Meanwhile his prostitute girlfriend Eva Mendes just wants to eat at fancy restaurants and chill.
What's The Deal: Just when you thought you'd seen Nicolas Cage swoop off as many deep ends as he could, his post-Academy Award career a lesson in how to be awesome by brazenly cannonballing yourself into a bottomless B-movie pit, comes this movie where he shows you just what it means to really go round the bend and still come off smelling like an artist. He's hilarious, scary, contorted, mournful, mean and weirdly, monstrously lovable--the perfect actor to work with one of the world's most stubborn, bold, idiosyncratic filmmakers. Give them both whatever awards there are to give because this is the coolest, craziest, most politically pointed and deranged movie of the year.
Odds That Nicolas Cage Is Actually High On Screen: Unlikely. But both fun and terrifying to think that he might have been, especially while shooting scenes like the one where he points a gun at an old lady while removing her oxygen tube to extort information, or the other one where he shows off his "lucky crack pipe" to some guys in Xzibit's crew.
Is It A Remake Or What? A quote from Herzog from the press notes (and it's a good one): "It does not bespeak great wisdom to call the film The Bad Lieutenant, and I only agreed to make the film after William Finkelstein, the screenwriter, who had seen a film of the same name from the early nineties, had given me a solemn oath that this was not a remake at all... Nevertheless, the pedantic branch of academia, the so-called 'film-studies,' in its attempt to do damage to cinema, will be ecstatic to find a small reference to that earlier film here and there... I call upon the theoreticians of cinema to go after this one. Go for it, losers."
Who To Bring With You: New friends or prospective significant others that you're trying to figure out. It's one of those litmus test films that you can use to judge their potential worthiness. Like Eraserhead, Au Hasard Balthazar, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Sleepaway Camp and Super Troopers.