Val Kilmer makes a triumphant return to the big screen this week in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," an off-kilter project befitting Kilmer's reputation as one of Hollywood's biggest head cases.

Will this film - Kilmer's first to get a wide release since 2006's "Déjà Vu" - get the actor back on the Hollywood map or will he continue to toil away in B-movie wilderness for the rest of his career?

Remember, Kilmer may be king of the straight-to-DVD landscape now, but for a while was considered to be one of the leading men in Hollywood. Kilmer was Iceman for crying out loud! He wore the cowl in "Batman Forever," and got to anchor another potential franchise in "The Saint." He was Jim Morrison and Doc Holliday! These are major, major roles.

So how did it come to pass that Kilmer now spends his days appearing in junk like "The Chaos Experiment" or "Streets of Blood" with 50 Cent?

The start of Kilmer's decline, it could be argued, began with the ill-fated "The Island of Dr. Moreau," a horrible film that became a running punchline in Hollywood due to the bad boy behavior of both Kilmer and co-star Marlon Brando.

Kilmer switched roles, got the original director fired and remained a difficult presence throughout the troubled shoot. Director John Frankenheimer reportedly said of Kilmer, "I don't like Val Kilmer, I don't like his work ethic, and I don't want to be associated with him ever again."

Of course, this would have all been water under the bridge if the movie was a hit, but it was an all-time bomb, scarring nearly everyone involved in the project.

Val Kilmer & Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Entertainment Weekly wrote a hit piece shortly thereafter entitled "Psycho Kilmer" in which numerous people who worked with Kilmer spoke of his difficult nature on the set.

That, combined with disappointing returns for "The Saint" and "The Ghost and The Darkness," made it a lot easier for people to stop working with Kilmer, and the A-list roles began to dry up.

Every now and then, Kilmer would pop up in a juicy role - 2003's "Wonderland," 2004's "Spartan," 2005's "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" - but it wasn't enough to get Kilmer consistent work.

It didn't help that in image-conscious Hollywood, the once handsome Kilmer let himself go, gaining weight and growing a Joaquin Phoenix-esque beard.

Recently Kilmer has managed to stay on the fringes of the news - he almost ran for governor of New Mexico, played Moses in a costly stage version of The Ten Commandments, voiced KITT in the horrid "Knight Rider" remake - but hasn't broken through with another strong role.

Instead, he's made a staggering amount of movies that go straight to your Blockbuster shelf, films way below the talents of a classically trained Method performer like Kilmer. Who knows, maybe he just enjoys keeping busy?

"Bad Lieutenant" may be another opportunity for Kilmer to get back in Hollywood's good graces, although the film itself is made by another iconoclast, Werner Herzog, and stars another kooky actor in Nicolas Cage, who has managed to rein in his eccentricities enough to create a lucrative career for himself.

After "Bad Lieutenant," however, it looks like more of the same for Kilmer save for a couple of intriguing possibilities. He is currently shooting the "MacGruber" movie - yes, they are really making a feature-length film from that SNL sketch - and is rumored for a role in the upcoming Motley Crue biopic, "The Dirt."

It may not be much, but it only takes one hit to get back on top. Maybe Kilmer can pull it off.

Story by Elliott Smith

Starpulse contributing writer