Shoot him again...his soul is still dancing - Nicholas Cage
I can’t think of any other recent film that fits the above criteria more than Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans...
Werner Herzog doesn’t strike me as someone who needs to take drugs to make something that’s strange and far out. He's just a naturally unique and quietly quirky human being where "strange" just comes naturally to him. But I’m sorry, he must have taken some peyote or mysterious herbal drug while coming up with the idea to remake Bad Lieutenant, which he claims he never actually saw (sounds like bullshit to me, but whatever). And the more I think about it no other actor could portray the role Nicolas Cage played because when you think about it, his real life kinda runs parallel to the character he plays in Bad Lieutenant. In the film detective Terrence Mcdonagh was a once promising police officer but years of drug abuse, gambling, corruption and a crippling back injury are catching up to him while he's working on a gruesome murder case (an immigrant family has been murdered by a local drug kingpin). In real life, Nicolas Cage was an A-list actor (I guess he still kinda is) but years of bad movie choices and bankruptcy have forced him to act in just about any movie that comes his way so he can make money to get himself outta debt. The basic plot of Herzog's Bad Lieutenant is pretty similar to the original: both films are about a corrupt, out of control, drug & gambling addicted police officer who's life is spiraling out of control. But at the same time Herzog takes a few liberties and changes some stuff around. In this version our main character has a partner (Val Kilmer), its set in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina (the original is set in New York City), there’s no outright religious symbolism (a staple in Ferrara’s work) and we get more of a glimpse in to the main characters' love life (Eva Mendes). And even though Keitel’s performance is WAY better than Cage's, Cage seems more likeable (even when he points a gun at the head of an old lady). Throughout the film Cage's character is suffering from a permanent back injury and he does an amazing job at making it believable. You grunt and squint along with Cage as he hobbles through the film or strains to stand up. He's the kinda antihero you don’t actually want to be or emulate. You just wanna watch him from a distance. He's like a fascinating train wreck. And no matter how corrupt and fucked up Cage is at no point in the film did I laugh WITH him or think he was cool. Throughout the entire film I’m laughing at him as Bad Lieutenant is essentially about someone who thinks their above the law but in reality they're on a downward destructive path that’s so unbelievable all you can do is laugh in disbelief as we watch him accidentally snort heroine instead of cocaine just before he has to go to work, steal police evidence, blackmail college athletes to throw games he's betting on or wear his gun inside his belt instead of a holster because he thinks he's some kind of a cowboy. Bad Lieutenant is pure insanity. Herzog once again captures the egomaniac, alpha white male who goes too far when trying to abuse power reminiscent of so many roles that Klaus Kinski played under his direction (Cobra Verde, Fitzcaraldo and Aguirre: The Wrath of God). Herzog even puts a little of himself into Cage’s character. Some of the lines in the film like “Do fish have dreams?” and “his soul is still dancing” are quotes and questions from the book “Herzog on Herzog”.
Bad Lieutenant has what seems like intentionally over the top moments that kinda come out of a comic book (the dramatic music, the reactions of some of the actors to certain situations and pretty much the last ten minutes). On the surface this seemed like an odd choice for Herzog that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of his filmography. As far as the cinematography goes this may be his most polished-looking work to date. In fact, after the release of Bad Lieutenant there was a great book of stills taken by Herzog's wife that got published. But at the same time there's many Herzog-like elements to Bad Lieutenant outside of Cage's insane Kinski-inspired lead performance like randomly beautiful scenes involving iguanas and crocodiles (as we all know Herzog loves animals and nature), odd musical choices reminiscent of the dancing chicken scene from Stroszek and Herzog's fascination with people from the continent of Africa. Bad Lieutenant also features an eclectic supporting cast of actors like Brad Douriff, Michael Shannon, actor/director Vondie Curtis Hall, Xzibit, Faruza Baulk and Shea Whingham who has probably my favorite scene in the movie (see below). Don’t judge this until you've actually seen it because chance are you'll be pleasantly surprised.