I just watched "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009) and I was wondering about the ending.
Immediately after Nicolas Cage's character snorts a line from the bag of uncut heroin and sits next to his father's wife to watch the football game, it cuts to a scene in which he's walking into the police station, sitting down at his desk. One right after the other, all the loose ends get tied up. The money he owes his girlfriend's client is forgiven, the game turns around and his bookie gives him $15,000 in winnings, the speeding ticket magically gets taken care of and then the captain comes in and shows him evidence that will convict the heroin dealer.
They then proceed to bust the heroin dealer and Nicolas Cage's character takes the high road and makes sure he's arrested instead of having an "accident". Later we find his girlfriend is pregnant, they have a house and his whole family has given up alcohol. We even find out that the man he saved at the beginning of the film is clean and getting his life on track.
There are hints that he's still his bad self. He's snorting dope, he's harassing kids that are coming out a night club, etc, but overall it's very much a "Disney ending", with everything working out well for the lead character.
My question is this: Is this ending real or is it really the last fevered fantasy of Nicolas Cage's character as he's dying from a heroin overdose?
There are many references to the uncut heroin being too strong to take without being cut. Nicholas Cage's character mentions it to his girlfriend right before she tells him she's going to a meeting with his father. The gangsters tell him that he needs to cut the dope "unless you wanna kill the motherfucker". We see Nicolas Cage's character clearly snorting a line with the bag sitting next to it before the "Disney ending" starts.
The ending also feels much too saccharine, especially for someone like Herzog. Also notice that when the "Disney ending" starts, the criminals that come in are talking about highly illegal activity, like murder, theft, gambling, prostitution and drug use, all while sitting at his desk without regard to discretion. There is even a scene where his bookie hands him $15,000 in cash, shows him the contents with his partner sitting in the desk next to him, clearly within earshot and line of sight of his partner sitting in the next desk.
Another interesting fact is that Nicolas Cage's character is leading the arrest of the heroin dealer even though he's been pulled to the sidelines and had his weapon confiscated.
Even the last scene, where he is sitting at the base of a large aquarium tank full of fish, can be interpreted a few ways. Perhaps it can be interpreted as "swimming with the fishes". There is also a reference to sleeping and dreaming, suggesting a tie to the original poem he found by the murdered child ("My friend is a fish. He live in my room. His fin is a cloud. He see me when I sleep.") with also the standard metaphor of death and sleep.
I thought of this immediately when viewing the film and found it obvious, but from looking online, I don't find another reviewer who acknowledges this theory. Most seem to accept the ending at face value. I only found one review who even considered this possibility only to then casually dismiss it to deride Herzog for tacking on a Hollywood ending to what was an otherwise dark film.
I also can't find any interviews with Herzog on the matter, but directors are often known to not talk about what kind of meaning their films have.
Does anyone have conclusive evidence that this is the case? Does anyone have any references that would support this theory?