Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Killing Them Softly has us thinking of movies set in New Orleans.

Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (2009)
Nicolas Cage owns New Orleans. Since Zandalee steamed up VHS players in 1991, Cage has made the city a second home, shooting his little-seen directorial debut (Sonny) there as well as such unforgettable recent thrillers as Stolen and Seeking Justice. But for the best example of the compatibility between crazy star and colorful locale, nothing beats Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, Werner Herzog’s unexpected, in-name-only remake of the notorious 1992 Abel Ferrara cop drama. The project sounded like a bad idea, whether played as straight procedural or camp. On one end, Ferrara’s film was a specific, incisive document of pre-Giuliani New York, with strong ties to the director’s lapsed Catholicism. On the other, Herzog and Cage risked creating a pre-fab cult movie/Internet meme along the lines of Snakes On A Plane.

Though Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans turned out much more like the latter than the former—with Cage fully and hilariously unhinged, and visual touches like a scene shot from the perspective of a hallucinating iguana—the film is also more thoughtful and rich than it initially appears. Herzog’s evident lack of interest in dealing with thriller convention gives him the freedom both to fiddle around with the genre and to explore whatever he finds intriguing about post-Katrina New Orleans. With Cage’s nostril-flaring and gesticulating providing most of the entertainment—and a great big dollop of narrative glue—Herzog happily screws around with details like Senegalese funeral rites and a dreamlike conclusion that openly mocks all the procedural business leading up to it. The film doesn’t end—it implodes.

Availability: Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans is available on DVD and Blu-ray.