Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opens
The unlikeliest franchise was born on November 20, 1992, when Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opened in New York City. Produced by Ed Pressman, written by Zoe Lund and Paul Calderon, and starring Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant boldly yoked a tale of a distraught Catholic cop seeking redemption by pursuing the rapists of a nun to a sordid, walk-on-the-wild side panorama of downtown New York in the early '90s. Drugs, sex, and more drugs fueled Ferrara's film, with Keitel groping towards — and reaching — a kind of narcotized catharsis. It is one of the great American films of the 1990s. The film ended with Keitel's corrupt cop shot dead on a New York street, so many were surprised when a new version, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans, was announced with another gonzo director, Werner Herzog, at the helm. Both Herzog and the film's producers said they saw the character as a kind of "James Bond" who could appear in a series of movies. Starring Nicolas Cage (who, ironically, was the original lead in Ferrara's The Funeral before abruptly backing out), Val Kilmer and Eva Mendes, the film, which opened November 2009, takes a few steps along the thin line between sincerity and parody before falling into a strange kind of parody. In the New York Times, critic Manohla Dargis wrote that Cage's bizarre performance caused her to positively reassess his career: "Mr. Cage revels in that slippage, though it was only after seeing Bad Lieutenant that I was reminded of how freaky he can be — and how exhilarating it can be to watch an actor go far and then just a little too far."