This is a breakthrough role for Foster, whose face is tight but whose emotions bleed through. He has a tattoo reading BAD MOTHERFUCKER but needs to keep dabbing at his torn left eye, which weeps. Harrelson’s gonzo soldier has so many layered defenses you wonder how he can ever know his own heart. The actors playing parents and spouses (among them Steve Buscemi, Halley Feiffer, Portia, and Kevin Hagan) are stunningly believable. I’m not sure how Morton made sense of her character’s ebbs and flows, but I never doubted her. She’s a mariner in uncharted seas of emotion.
If there’s a sure thing in movies, it’s that if you cast Nicolas Cage in a role in which he goes crazy, he’ll rise to the occasion and keep on rising until he seems even loonier than his character. In Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (a sequel to Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant in name only), he plays Terence McDonagh, whose back is injured as he saves a prisoner when the levees break. As he moves from prescription painkillers to huge amounts of crack and smack, his shoulders stiffen, eyes bulge, and lips pull back to reveal hungry choppers. He’s like a vampirized Richard Nixon. Werner Herzog directed, deftly at first (plenty of noir atmosphere) but with escalating wigginess, as if trying to keep up with his leading man. Talk about the burden of dreams!