“This could be the Criterion franchise.”
That’s what brothers and producing partners Alan and Gabe Polsky told me about their vision for Bad Lieutenant. These relative Hollywood newcomers came upon the remake rights to Abel Ferrara’s classic tale of psycho cop corruption and, rather than try to replicate it completely, hired a unique director to do something totally different with it. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans isn’t really a remake of the Harvey Keitel-starrer, and it’s not a sequel. It’s sort of the next chapter in what the Polskys see as a possible anthology that can be open to some of the most intriguing and talented filmmakers. I talked to them at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills; Danny Boyle stood just a few feet away. ‘Imagine what he would do with it,’ Gabe said.
Imagine indeed! I imagined a bunch of possible auteurs to take the Bad Lieutenant reigns handed over from Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage. Now I’m listing some of them. Keeping in mind the Polsky maxim of it is being ‘the Criterion franchise’ I’ve not included filmmakers who might have interesting takes on the material but wouldn’t fit into the ‘Criterion’ mold. I’ve also kept it to living, working filmmakers. Yeah, I’d love to see Orson Welles tackle Bad Lieutenant (with Welles himself in the Bad Lieutenant role!), it’s just not feasible.
David O Russell’s Bad Lieutenant: Albuquerque Patrol. Starring Christian Bale. Okay, I’ll admit it – this pairing comes from me wanting to see the behind the scenes video of the two unruly artists battling it out on set. But tell me this isn’t a team made in heaven? Russell’s film would be darkly comic, and would follow Bale as a crooked cop who is assigned to bust Albuquerque’s meth labs. Except that he gets into the supply in a big way and starts freaking out. This role gives Bale the chance to never smile and lose weight – it’s a natural.
Lars Von Trier’s Bad Lieutenant: Sex Crimes Unit. Starring Christina Ricci. Why does the Bad Lieutenant always have to be a guy? If anyone could get to the evil heart of women, it’s the director of Antichrist. Christina Ricci is a sex crimes cop in Chicago who turns to drugs to help her deal with the misery she sees every day. But the perversity in her job seeps into her life, and she’s soon taking the power back – by using a very big strap-on to rape seemingly innocent men.
Terence Malick’s Bad Lieutenant: Golden Fields of Corruption. Starring Tommy Lee Jones. Set deep in corn country in Iowa and shot entirely at golden hour, Malick’s epic four hour long entry in the series is about a local cop who abuses the system by sitting at a diner all day, eating free pie and looking out the window at lovingly photographed stalks of corn. At the end he shoots someone who is manhandling a praying mantis.
Gus Van Sant’s Bad Lieutenant: Homeland Security, LAX. Starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. JGL is a young, handsome cop with Homeland Security, stationed at LAX. One day while using a bathroom toilet stall he has an encounter with a GOP senator who has a ‘very wide stance.’ The younger man begins blackmailing the senator and accumulating an arsenal at the airport, getting ready to completely snap. In a tour de force performance JGL transforms before our eyes from a young, sweet boy into a hunched maniac who talks in the Cobra Commander voice.
Wes Anderson’s Bad Lieutenant: Above 379th Street. Starring Owen Wilson. Stuck in Manhattan’s 700th precinct in a shitty desk position, Owen Wilson’s Bad Lieutenant illegally downloads lots of British Invasion tracks to his reel to reel tape machine, which he mounts on the back of his scooter as he proceeds to rape, murder and torture his way through a curiously Caucasian uptown in search of his deadbeat dad.
Albert Maysle’s Bad Lieutenant: Mark Fuhrman. Starring Mark Fuhrman. A far fetched story of a racist, corrupt, moron cop who manages to become rich and famous through evil.
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