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I have to say I was somewhat horrified when I saw the trailer for this; it looked very generic and unintersting. The first thought in my head after hearing about this collaboration of Herzog and Cage was 'trainwreck'. I mean, I knew it would be at least an interesting wreck, but I was not expecting much. I was dead wrong.
Also, let me say that the original film by Abel Ferrara is one of my all time faves, and Harvey Keitel's performance is the answer I automatically give to anyone who asks what my all time favorite film performance is.
That being said.....
While the first film is dark and just brutal, this film is actually quite funny. With the exception of drug addict cops and gambling debts, the films are quite different. The first was def more in your face w/both it's graphic portrayal of gutter life and the ever-present religious overtones. This film is far more subtle, both in it's scenery and supporting cast, all across the board I might add; both the locations and characters are there, just waiting to be noticed for their authenticity in even the smallest part. There is reality to them all, much of which can be very comedic. The same can be said for the backdrop of New Orleans; it plays second to the human cast, but there is much to be noticed upon multiple viewings.
Nicolas Cage is perfectly cast and pull this one off flawlessly; his energy and humor, crossed w/a few somber and even emotional moments(esp. the scene where he talks about his treasure hunt w/Eva Mendes....). Cage makes every scene enjoyable, which is basically every scene. His acting is consistent throughout, even changing his tone of voice after being up for 3 days(as people who have been packing their noses for 72 hours with no sleep often do.....almost a godfather type thing), with his hunched back and .44 magnum hanging from his belt. This may be Cage's best film, and he deserves so much credit for this performance. I actually had fun watching him, and I never thought of him as Nicolas Cage, despite some obvious 'Cage-isms' here and there in terms of delivery. But you can tell he was into this part, and the result is almost more of a comic tour de force than anything else....he delivers lines like 'don't worry about your clothes right now...this is uncut dope!' with a certain comic timing almost, and like Keitel, you are just waiting to see what he will do next.
Some people found this movie boring and linear; while straightforward on the surface(kind of reminded me of an early 70's cop movie at times...), it deepens upon multiple viewings. You can tell Cage and Herzog made some kind of connection, and to be honest I am thankful someone actually funded this and got the talent involved. You can tell there was not a huge budget for this movie, which I think helped in terms of getting unknown/lesser known actors to fill many of the smaller but important roles. It adds a certain authenticity. The result is something truly original, funny, but by no means without it's share of corruption, brutality, and intense moments. Not very violent, but there is def a feeling of something heavy coming throughout, given some of the situations.
I would also say there are some surprises in here I have not seen in any film; Herzog has a great control over this film, and from the opening scene in the flooded jailhouse to the final frames, you can see he put his heart into this film. Plus there are 3 things in this movie I have never seen before in any movie; they were surprising and gut busting. You are lucky if you get one good twist in a movie nowadays.
This is based on seeing 4 times in the theater, but I can only imagine it will look fantastic on blu ray. An odd film to some, lame to others. But hopefully some will see this for the brilliant movie it is and get past the title or any comparisons. They are both great films to me, and completely different.
A great example of what talented people all across the board can do w/basically no money, and outshine most 'funded' movies...Go figure.
***UPDATE: Looks amazing on Blu Ray; This is how this movie was meant to be seen. Great lighting, color schemes, location use, and detail in every scene. The theater did not do this movie justice visually speaking...***