Nicolas Cage did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Terence McDonagh the titular character of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.
The similarities in the two films are that they focus on the exploits of a bad Lieutenant who is tasked to solve one major crime while he indulges in sex, drugs, gambling, and all while abusing his power as a police officer. The earlier film was a very serious depiction of this troubled man, but in this case it goes for much more of a dark comedy type of approach to the material. The same goes for Cage's depiction of the Lieutenant which differs greatly from Keitel's work. The Lieutenant engages in the same behavior but in a vastly different fashion. Also I would say that this named Lieutenant, although definitely makes problematic decisions throughout the film, it is easy to see that he is far more competent individual than the unnamed Lieutenant who was completely incompetent in basically every single facet of his life.
Nicolas Cage receive a bit of a bad rap these days with many calling him a terrible actor, but I think I would more of categorize him as a wasted actor. Yes he's in plenty of bad films due to his lack of selectivity, but so is Gary Oldman for the same basic reason. Cage when he really goes for a role, like in his two Oscar nominated performances, he goes all in which thankfully is the case here. There is no really reason to compare him to Keitel because he does not go for anything like Keitel's great performance. This is mainly a comic performance by Cage. That is not to say he is going for laughs directly even once, but Cage knows what he is doing. Cage was probably the absolute perfect choice for the role as this Lieutenant is someone you should never be able to guess what he is going to do next much like a Nicolas Cage performance.
It is funny in that in terms of the drug problem with this Lieutenant you might actually be able to attribute it, at least in part, to his his back pain which Cage illustrates quite well through a constant hunch. The Lieutenant is never off any single drug through the film and Cage can practically make you see it coursing through his veins through the certain malaise that he gives him. There is always something working through his system and Cage rather brilliant brings this through his performance as any highs or lows seem on a physical level as well as a mental one. When for example he abuses some young people outside of a club for drugs his sleazy style is that of a lowly addict just constantly pleading for drugs, but Cage cleverly subverts but still having the appropriate command that still is what you may expect from a normal cop handling the situation.
Cage is never set to set a scene in just a scene lay down as there is a constant energy he brings to role that is effective as it is always in character for the manic nature of his character. Even when the character comes down from one of his highs Cage even manages to that with some great gusto. Some of my favorite scenes though are when Lieutenant McDonagh proves himself far more capable than the original Lieutenant such as one scene where he goes through one house to sneak behind one the murder suspects they are after. Cage is great in the scene once he catches the man as it is a truly intense high he presents in the Lieutenant from his accomplishment. It is not just that of the success but Cage puts the drugs right in there to as the Lieutenant is not doubt on the up swing when it comes to whatever he had possibly ingested most recently.
One of the most interesting things I found watching this performance is how likable Cage manages to make the Lieutenant despite the fact that the bad is definitely earned as torturing old ladies is not even out of the question if it meets his demands. Cage succeeds well in two points in this regard. One being that he does have so much fun in the role and he properly channels that at the right times to concise for any particular success the Lieutenant may be having. Another reason though is the comic manner Cage has. He is pretty spot on in all manners that he takes in this regard. On one side one will be a little broader moment that he makes work because he has set up the Lieutenant to be just this spontaneous. Anything does go for the Lieutenant it seems and Cage completely makes that work often to a rather hilarious degree.
There are two particularly fantastic moments for Cage in that regard. One being when he threatens his new criminal associates for his cut in a criminal bargain. Cage goes from possibly killing them type insanity to a joking jubilation so naturally that is riotous. The other scene though is when he uses the murderers he's suppose to be catching to kill another set of gangsters that he has crossed in some way. After the murders the Lieutenant hallucinates one of their souls break dancing afterwards ordering his associates to shoot the man again to stop it. That might go on the too absurd side but Herzog and Cage make it work. Cage's is expression is awesome in nature as his totally gone expression seems to honestly be that of a man who is in fact seeing a break dancing soul. That is not all there is though to Cage here.
Cage oddly enough goes from insanity to a calmer at times in such an extreme way yet only fitting for the character that he has developed. Cage even manages to bring humor to some technically dark scenes, like letting some men have their way with his prostitute girlfriend. In this case he does in such a matter of fact way that he allows the blackness of the situation to have the right tinge of farce to stop it from becoming a little too serious. This is not to say Cage is even all fun and games, even if there is plenty of that to go around. There is a strange underlying heart that Cage suggests that is underlying in any scene where the lieutenant must actually do the right thing. There is no confession scene like in the other film yet Cage still manages to subtly suggest the good man behind the very bad one.
Before writing this review I thought perhaps a 4.5 for Cage here, but as I've gone through all that I liked about his performance I have had an even greater appreciate for his work here. This is Cage probably at his very best as he goes for broke and gets the appropriate pay off in return. Cage never becomes dour he never becomes even slightly uninteresting for a second. There is always something he brings to the part and his twisted comedic nature makes the film soar far more than if an actor took a more straight forward, and to be honest less Cagey, approach really the film may have been a complete failure. Cage matches the style exactly as he should and gives a incredibly enjoyable performance. This definitely might not be everyone's cup of tea I suspect but I have to admit I loved it.