It's no secret that Nicolas Cage has been going off the deep end of late. His performances have become increasingly unhinged and harebrained; you never know when the character he's playing will suddenly become apoplectic over something that seems -- no matter what it is, in comparison to the reaction it draws -- relatively minor. This almost singlehandedly ruined this year's Knowing, at heart a decent science-fiction flick rendered nearly unwatchable by Cage's fevered overacting. It's no coincidence that Cage hasn't done a "serious" dramatic performance in more than three years. I shudder to think what that would now look like.
All of which makes me think that Werner Herzog is even smarter than people give him credit for. Having cast Cage in his "remake" of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (I put "remake" in scare quotes as Herzog claims to never have seen Ferrara's film, and the new one has nothing to do with it beyond sharing some bare plot elements), he lets the actor go truly all-out. In The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Cage, playing the titular Lieutenant Terence McDonagh, interrupts himself, has roundtable discussions with himself, cheers himself on, punctuates conversations with non sequitur chuckles and handclaps, and gets hugely angry. It's a completely absurd performance -- and, God willing, a way for the actor to let off steam and return to the more nuanced, settled acting he used to do.