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The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

This bad-cop fantasia from Werner Herzog is a head-scratcher.

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It's nominally a riff on Abel Ferrara's 1992 Bad Lieutenant, which Herzog says he has never seen, and is so dreadfully made that a viewer is left wondering if the whole thing is some post-postmodern joke. In any case, you'll likely be laughing, and maybe you're supposed to.

Port of Call stars Nicolas Cage, set here on Super-Sonic Bad Acting. Again, Cage is fully capable of inadvertent bad acting, so are his grimaces, barks and howling laughs here a wink – or is this a delicious new low for fans of his very worst roles?

Cage plays a New Orleans cop who sustains an injury rescuing a "shit turd" criminal during Hurricane Katrina. Six months later, the city is still a wreck, and the newly minted lieutenant is a raging crack-and-opiates fiend. The story -- a pastiche of every bad-cop move you've ever seen -- follows him as he half-assedly investigates a multiple murder. But mostly, he very colorfully self-destructs. In the mix are an avenging bookie (Brad Dourif), a prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and a gangster (rapper-turned-actor Xzibit). Oh, and hey, look -- it's Val Kilmer! Singing iguanas! And alligator-cam!

 If Herzog meant this as a piss-take on crappy American cop movies, a metaphor for our culture's collapse or whatever -- then I'm not sure that he hit the target correctly, or that this expensive, over-the-top exercise is even necessary. I was entertained, but simply by its exaggerated awfulness. If you're a fan of "bad movies" -- be they intentional or accidental -- there's laughs aplenty. Starts Fri., Jan. 29. Squirrel Hill

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