Werner Herzog's new film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans has raised all kinds of hackles, mainly over the "remake" issue. Some movie buffs are crying foul over the remaking of Abel Ferrara's classic Bad Lieutenant (1992), including Ferrara himself, who launched some famously acid comments in the press. This fuss has caused most critics to address the issue of how closely the two films resemble one another. In most cases, critics have concluded that the two films are entirely different with totally different feels and approaches.
Frankly, I'm fascinated by the two films, given that both directors are crazy mavericks, both indulging in their looniest personal whims, no matter what the cost or the outcome. This is not a remake in which anyone is concerned with "staying true to the material" or anything boring like that. Ferrara went nuts on his original film, and Herzog has gone nuts on the new film. Herzog has claimed that he never even saw Ferrara's film, and indeed, it more closely resembles his own earlier films with Klaus Kinski, with Nicolas Cage playing the part of the unhinged, psychopathic terror onscreen. (Most people I have spoken to have compared Cage's performance with some of his earlier, more extreme work, such as Vampire's Kiss).
Just imagine someone like Ron Howard doing a Bad Lieutenant film and how polite and restrained -- and dull -- it would be. After a screening of Herzog's film, a friend suggested that there should be a whole series of Bad Lieutenant films, one for each major city in the world. Imagine a whole bunch of lunatics directing them: picture Park Chan-wook, Uwe Boll, Vincent Gallo, James Toback or Lars von Trier taking their bad lieutenants out for a spin. That would be a series I could get behind.
Your thoughts, readers? Should Herzog have left well enough alone? Or has he opened a can of worms?