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Nicolas Cage plays unhinged cop in Bad Lieutenant

By Mike Collett-White and Cindy Martin

VENICE (Reuters) - Actor Nicolas Cage plays a deranged, drug-addicted detective in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," re-visiting the corrupt cop role made famous by Harvey Keitel 17 years ago.

Despite the similarity in title to Abel Ferrara's 1992 cult classic "Bad Lieutenant," and Ferrara's obvious displeasure at the idea of a remake, Cage and German director Werner Herzog say their movie is not connected.

"It would be unfair to compare the two movies," Cage told Reuters in an interview in Venice, where the picture is in competition at the annual film festival.

"Harvey's trajectory is really dealing with guilt and all of that, and perhaps fits more into that (Judeo-Christian) program, so to me it's a completely different story and a different cop," added the 45-year-old, who won a best actor Oscar for playing an alcoholic in "Leaving Las Vegas."

"This is a New Orleans cop, it takes place in New Orleans, it's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, it's not Bad Lieutenant."

Ferrara has criticized the idea of a remake, and was quoted in the media as saying: "I wish these people die in hell."

The fact that Ferrara is also due in Venice with another picture has only heightened media interest in the row, although Herzog said he had not seen the original.

"I have never seen this film," Herzog told Reuters. "I only know it has nothing to do with it, because the screenwriter explained to me the other film ... and we knew it was not in any way related."

He said the title was the result of pressure from one of his producers to turn his movie into "some sort of a franchise," and that he had insisted on adding "Port of Call New Orleans" to differentiate it from the 1992 film.

When asked about Ferrara's criticism, Herzog added: "I have absolutely no problem. However, I would like that Abel Ferrara sees my film and if I know he sees mine I will promise him that I will see his film."

FLAWED HERO

Cage portrays homicide detective Terence, who busts young party-goers in order to steal drugs for his own consumption and accept sexual favors along the way.

Constantly snorting cocaine and smoking crack, all the while protecting his prostitute girlfriend played by Eva Mendes, he closes in on a drug baron he suspects of executing a family of Senegalese immigrants.

For Cage, his character is a good, if flawed, officer.

"He's in a sense part of his environment, he's trying to operate within an environment which has a drug culture and a street culture, so how do you survive in that world?"

Partly set in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the movie portrays the corruption of authority through Terence's excesses and mobsters moving in on redevelopment projects.

Cage said he wanted to work in New Orleans, having had "an awakening" in the city which he declined to describe.

"It can be a scary place, so I needed to go back there to make the movie to know that I could."

Hollywood publication Variety's Todd McCarthy gave the movie, and Cage, a mixed review:

"Sometimes he's so over the top it's funny, which one can hope was intentional," he wrote.

"The film is offbeat, silly, disarming and loopy all at the same time, and viewers will decide to ride with that or just give up on it, according to mood and disposition."

(Editing by Steve Addison)

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