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This review is from: Bad Lieutenant [DVD] (DVD)
This is one wild ride: the most engaging, thrilling, original take on contemporary Noir.
Whether you care less about catching something that Cineasts might refer to as an auteur masterpiece of contemporary American cinema or not, just sit back and be transported by this wonderfully fresh, darkly atmospheric vision. It's the bad-cop movie remodelled as a fever dream --and what a trip.
The artistry evident in every aspect of the production that makes this thing such a joy to experience from beginning to end is unsurprising if you know director Werner Herzog's track record, of course. There can't be a finer director anywhere on the planet surely? In Cinema the words 'artist' and 'poet' are bandied about willy-nilly, but this man surely is genuinely one of the great artists of our period in any medium. No mere stylist or aesthete, his taste is nevertheless impeccable and the intelligent poetic sensibility which informs all his work is as evident in this particular film as any. In a re-make project that might easily have been merely another arty piece of genre-manipulation, what's emerged here is much more. In broad terms, it's a stylish but cliche-free, visionary slice of contemporary Western culture --albeit an expressionistic outsider perspective thereof.
I never really expected to see Herzog be given the opportunity to make a full-on, polished, commercial U.S. feature film. It comes as no surprise to see the panache and originality of what he's done with the opportunity, though. I can't imagine a U.S. director doing anything like it, so it amounts to a remarkably fresh addition to the American canon and interesting twist on a familiar genre favourite. Peter Zeitlinger's striking cinematography, the uniformly compelling performances and the director's original stylistic strokes combine to create a distinctively stylish contemporary feel unseen elsewhere and one totally right for the piece.
The perfectly paced story doesn't moralise on the view from the heart of delirium it presents as we follow the central character's arc of amoral, existential excess. As always, Herzog's profoundly humanistic camera is essentially non-judgemental, so it's free to find humour and surprising romantic tenderness in the most unexpected places --and irony free too. So refreshing that and fun, fun, fun.
What a fantastic treat: a mesmerising, totally cool, instant classic.