Do Fish Have Dreams?

By Almendra Maria Mcbride Perez

bad-lieutenant-port-of-call-new-orleans-werner-herzog.jpgBad Lieutenant, 2009

Encroaching evil from primeval times, slithering in the dark, a crushed reptile lies amidst its spilled guts, next to the ‘Guardians of the Flame’, a foot sometimes in light, but also in the shadows. Cops ‘in the know’, who cross the line and turn into ‘cheap freaks’, yet by ‘hanging out’ amongst the gangs, helping to enforce the law. “Do fish have dreams” asks Spencer, the ‘bad’ lieutenant, portrayed masterly by Mr. Nicholas Cage, in Werner Herzog’s film.

Set after hurricane Katrina’s devastation, Cage’s lucid representation of a mad/bad lieutenant is a mixture of nerve and malice, crocodile tears and spilled guts. Sex, drugs, vice, good & bad, appear in this world of tense gals and confused guys. “Unbelievable agents” of the law, who could be called: ‘POLI-V-ICE’ - a sort of mish-mash of half truths & half lies, create some hope, some dread, on whose hands authority now lies? In Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, all manner of tricks blend with flaws: corruption, flesh, passion, easy money. A child, a dog, are vehicles here, doubling up as ‘passports’ to solving a puzzle. A life crossword, a few degrees away from death. One’s heart senses danger. Script & film conspire to both terrorize and entertain. A lesson for all, young & old, what to do & not to do!. An abused woman, whose only cry for help is: “Do you have anything for me?” We don’t hit women down south”; may be his weakest card to play!. “Bad mistake. Big mistake” rings out from the villains’ lips.

bad-lieutenant-port-of-call-new-orleans-werner-herzog-2.jpgBad Lieutenant, 2009

‘Leading by example’ used to be the norm. Now guns & shields are kept by ‘the wrong ones’. Evidence, being 9/10ths of the law, slips through the bad cops hands, a boy who flees via a casino; “Insert more coins” rings the voice, loud signal of ‘faux-pas’. A blue line divides success from a thin white line up a smart ass’ nose. All hangs in the balance of justice’s scales. Old people’s homes turn into witness traps. A lying granny stops a massacre. “Being effective with three days sleep”, says the tough guy, whilst torturing an old biddy (lady), produces what is needed: a U.S. congresswoman’s mother lies at the heart of charges against him. “Don’t play me for a fucking stooge!. I don’t like getting fucked up, like everybody else. You pay what you fucking owe”, warns the bully drug-dealer. Forcing a statement from ‘a source’, then losing it, by accusing others for being the reason why this country (U.S.A.), is going down the drain. Money is the answer, or is it? A date with a pretty girl, “engaging with other human being, reminds us we’re not alone” states the psycho, sick-headed, gangster type, in the hotel room. “Call it a day. Shoot the dog, or put a marker on the girl” he yells. Pressure is “another client” for a whore, given a two day deadline on a debt. Buying time from spooks might be the 21st. century’s favourite hobby. “What trash you bring into my house” exclaims Spencer’s sibling, standing on an old porch front ‘sitting in the veranda’s’ type of old fashioned New Orleans’ home, near the swamps. “Keep fucking with the old lady; the Chief D.A.’s office is on your back. You’re done”, the bad lieutenant is warned by his long suffering boss. “Last chance for a good day” says his long suffering head of department, disarming the policeman. To which Cage’s Spencer reply is: “A man without a gun is not a man”.

bad-lieutenant-port-of-call-new-orleans-werner-herzog-3.jpgBad Lieutenant, 2009

Yet the bad lieutenant finds refugee in his fevered mind. An old abandoned cottage in the garden - a boy’s paradise, a den, a special place, a castle of dream, a mother’s threat. Pirate’s buried treasure in a troubled man’s mind. A .45 Magnum may be the door to heaven, or to hell. More ‘brown sugar’ up the nostrils, a ‘bogie man look’ helps to scare the mean. Putting the villain under his thumbs, a crazy move. What next?.” A body in a bag, with weights, thrown to the swampy waters. The power behind the throne. “Future prime real estate river front condos”, says the baddie. Houses which hide mouldy corpses below, New Orleans at its worst, the hunter or the hunted? A third party moves in. the heavy mob collecting debts. “Taking other people’s property is wrong”, exclaims the Mafia boss drug dealer & adds “I’m stuck doing this shit”. The white clad gangster shoots, blasting the tyrants out of their self-imposed misery. As the red-jacket gangster’s body wreaths on the floor, Cage’s Spencer screams: “Shoot them again, their soul is still dancing”, which is the height of this iguana dream hypnosis, the product of hallucination.

A toreador’s death in the public bullring, the TV screen, reflects the scene around. “Birds of a feather, we both like our poison” says the monster-featured sibling, long unkempt hair, beer bottle swigging old gal. A hoodlum’s paradise. Buying dope in damaged streets. A drug dealer’s dream - ruined houses, broken lives, getting lucky, fucking others‘ lives. The integrity of the game, better than keeping a secret, walking with wolves in the dark. “Doing what I said I’d do? A cut of the uncut dope ‘till the break of dawn. I’d kill you off” he warns. “Repent or live”, sawn-off shut gun to his head, a new found conscience is the threat. Or is it? A promise of new life?. A light at the end of the tunnel. A uniformed policeman’s badge stares out from the past. A picture torn, being watched. Two drop outs from school, crouched in an old sofa with a remote control, sit under a faded sacred heart’s gaze, in a jaded frame. Is baseball on TV sport’s mecca for man, or the way out worked!. Speeding tickets gone, female highway patrol, lab found DNA. Yes is the word, though rusty it may be. A past and a present. Cuff him? Or Murder? Money or Life? A hymn, a medal, a positive note. A spinal injury from a snake pit’s rescue of old, reminds one of ‘old life’, or is it ‘new life’?. Evaristo Chavez, the Latin-American soul, the helping hand. Love is all.

Almendra Maria Mcbride Perez is a writer and journalist living in London.