Bad Lieutenant - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Bad Lieutenant Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 13, 2014
Bad Lieutenant is an intense drama directed by Abel Ferara and starring Harvey Keitel in an intense performance that is one of his darkest roles of his career. He plays a corrupt cop, and he searches for salvation after years of drug abuse and gambling. Atmospheric and dark, Bad Lieutenant is one of Ferara's finest directorial efforts along with King of New York. What makes this a truly compelling picture is the way that Keitel delivers a powerful performance that is truly disturbing. Ferara's direction here is much more focused than his previous work, and he has matured as a director that truly knows how to create an effective and memorable drama. The story is very good and is an intense portrayal of corruption. Keitel dominates the screen with his presence and he is perfect for the part. Add to that Ferara's raw, gritty direction and you have a stellar picture that resonates with the viewer. Abel Ferara is a master at crafting exploitation films, and with Bad Lieutenant he delivers a film that has genre elements, but added flair to make a somewhat more mainstream picture. The result is a drama that feels real, in your face and above all memorable. Ferara manages to make you feel that you're in the chaos and in turn makes you feel uncomfortable. The film is not perfect, but it is a film that is entertaining, thrilling and is a roller coaster ride in the lead characters life. Brilliantly acted, directed and shot, Bad Lieutenant is a gritty picture that is constantly riveting and thrilling. Abel Ferara has crafted a strong film, and quite possible the strongest film of his career, and he manages to take the elements of his early work, and revamp it to make a much more serious picture, and like King of New York, Bad Lieutenant is Ferara's strongest work.
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2011
It took me years to finally see this, and, I think that might be a problem. Had I seen this when I was in high school, I would probably had loved it. Since that's not the case, I can say that I appreciate it, and kind of like it, but have no problem calling it an overhyped letdown (to a degree).

Trafficking in minimalism, this is a raw, visceral, grim, and gritty character about a tortured police lieutenant who is basically the most corrupt and vile cop ever. He spends most of his time abusing his body with sex, drugs, and booze, abusing his power as a cop, and racking up a sizable gambling debt. He's a slimy, unlikable worm, but all of that changes when he investigates the brutal rape of a nun. Amazed that she can forgive her attackers, he decides that maybe he too can be redeemed.

There's really not much of a plot. It's pretty much just scene after scene of debauchry and filth, with heavy amounts of Catholic themes and imagery thrown in with all the awfulness. I do appreciate and admire the film's look at sinfulness and faith, but it all feels rather pointless.

Keitel is pretty great though as the titular character. It's a career defining (and very brave) turn, but I think he may have gone a little too off the rails at times, with some of his wailing coming off as laughable as opposed to genuine and moving.

The film is at least well shot, atmospheric, and moody. It's just also really really unpleasant, joyless, and tough to endure.

As I said, I admire it, but I don't know if I really like it. It's overrated, but in a way, I kind of appreciate the trashiness, if only for the fact that there is a place for it in this messed up world of ours.
Super Reviewer
½ June 1, 2012
The Lieutenant: I'm sorry, Lord. I've done so many bad things. 

"Gambler. Thief. Junkie. Killer. Cop."

Before finally seeing Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, I knew what to expect. I've seeing the semi-remake from Werner Herzog, which I liked. The subject matter isn't what you'd call cheery. Bad Lieutenant's title is pretty self explanatory. It is about a cop, and a not so good one at that. That doesn't mean he isn't good at his job. It means he is a bad person. He gets himself in deep by gambling. He does a variety of drugs. He drinks. He uses teenage girls for sex. If there's a terrible thing you can think of; odds are The Lieutenant does it. There's really not much plot here. It's all about the man. So based purely on that short synopsis, you should be able to decide whether it is a movie that you could handle. 

Although this is rated NC-17, it isn't as graphic as you would think. Today, this would get an R rating. Not that the rating has any basis in what I think of the film, I just thought I would get that out of the way. I was actually surprised by how un-graphic the film was. Sure there's a lot of cussing, and a lot of drug use; but today that is common, so it doesn't really shock. The sexual content is mostly implied, unlike Herzog's film. 

This whole film relies on Harvey Keitel's performance as The Lieutenant, and he does a really good job as usual. The scenes where he breaks down are his best. He is powerful in them. Other than that though, there is really nothing noteworthy about Bad Lieutenant. Ferrara's direction is nothing to write home about. There is some good camera work, but that doesn't really elevate the film in my eyes. 

I'll give this a mild recommendation purely because of Keitel's powerhouse performance. I didn't really like the movie though. It may suffer in my eyes more than someone who hasn't seen Herzog's film, though. I thought his was amazing; so by comparison, this one just underwhelms me in about every possible way. The only thing better about it, is the lead performance. Keitel is going to out perform Cage obviously. Overall, it isn't a terrible movie. We see what Ferrara's point is with this character study through Keitel's performance. I just wish it would have had something else going for it.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
August 20, 2011
Since attracting the wrath of the BBFC with his debut feature Driller Killer, Abel Ferrara has carved out a niche as one of the most difficult and uncompromising filmmakers of our time. His forthright personality off-screen is matched only by the hard-talking, macho nature of his films, which range from the gruesome rape revenge thriller Ms. 45 to the poignant but swaggering China Girl. In Bad Lieutenant, arguably his most audacious work, he gives us a film about guilt, redemption and unbearable human suffering, constructed around one of the greatest performances of the 1990s.

Bad Lieutenant is a slow-burning, often thoughtful character study scripted by Zoe Lund, a model-turned-actress who starred in Ms. 45. It follows the tortured lifestyle of an unnamed New York police lieutenant who is deeply in debt to the mob through bets made on a baseball series. On top of his gambling addiction he is also a cocaine and heroin addict, who steals drugs from crime scenes to sell on the street so he can fund his other habit, namely women. In the midst of all this, somehow being able to keep his job, he is assigned to track down two men who have brutally raped a young nun, played by Frankie Thorn.

For this kind of character to be believable, you need an actor with weight, experience and a threatening screen presence - and no-one meets those criteria better than Harvey Keitel. After a relatively quiet 1980s, Keitel was experiencing a revival with critical plaudits for his work on Thelma and Louise and Bugsy, the latter of which brought him his first (and so far only) Oscar nomination. Around the same time he played Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs, a role popularly perceived as his comeback. But out of the two this is the more remarkable performance, which makes any talk of a 'comeback' seem like damning with faint praise.

Keitel's performance in Bad Lieutenant is one of the best of his career, up there with his early work on Mean Streets or The Duellists. He truly and painfully inhabits the nameless Lieutenant, giving a performance of such raw, unmitigated honesty that we empathise with him even in his most unspeakable moments. We genuinely feel the torture of the lieutenant as he descends further and further into hell on the streets of New York, faced with both his growing personal problems and a case which is impossible to solve. It's a performance of blood, sweat, tears and God knows what else, and the result is both frightening and heartbreaking.

In terms of Keitel's back catalogue, the film to which Bad Lieutenant is closest is Taxi Driver. Martin Scorsese has almost admitted this comparison, including Bad Lieutenant on his list of Greatest Films of the 1990s. Both Travis Bickle and the Bad Lieutenant are driven, obsessive loners, who inhabit a world which is drowning in corruption and sin, and whose motivation comes from a desire to fight against the all-engulfing tide. But where Travis is positioned as God's lonely man, the Lieutenant has one foot firmly in hell and only gains complete moral conviction in the final stages of the film.

Bad Lieutenant is at heart a story of Catholic redemption. Keitel is haunted by the mistakes he has made in the past, and his regrets are tempered by an admittance that it is all his fault. His bets with the mob's bookie become increasingly absurd, so that during the scene in the club the broker advises Keitel that it would be cheaper and easier just to have him killed. The Lieutenant's many years on the streets have made him incapable of forgiving people or understand the grace or mercy of God. When his nieces receive their first communion, he watches from a distance, unable to connect with either the service or the beliefs it upholds.

There are a number of deeply striking sequences in Bad Lieutenant which convey the seemingly impossible prospect of redemption in the midst of all the horror unfolding on screen. The best and most extraordinary of these comes in the church, where Keitel questions the nun over her refusal to identify the men who raped her. She refuses to identify her attackers on the grounds that her rape raises the prospect of God's grace being bestowed on the two men. After she leaves, Keitel breaks down and see a vision of Christ standing in the church. He crawls along the floor, weeping and wailing, wanting to grasp the mysteries of God and forgiveness but being unable to reconcile that with his own shallow nature. It's an extraordinary scene in which the temporal and spiritual collide in a moment of pure passion and emotion, leaving the character devastated and the audience astonished.

After coming out of his vision, Keitel manages to track down the two men who raped the nun, but rather than turning them in, he gives them all the money he has and puts them on the first bus out of town. He does so against his better judgement, but even while he berates himself as the bus drives away, he knows in his heart that it was the right thing to do. In these scenes the Lieutenant realises in practice the true grace and compassion of Christ, with his decision mirroring that of the nun; like Thomas in the Gospels, he believes because he has seen. The film ends with the Lieutenant being murdered in his car: what seems like a cruel accident could equally be a blessed release, with the Lieutenant finally reaching heaven having performed God's works here on Earth.

Because Abel Ferrara started out as a grindhouse director, the spiritual aspects of Bad Lieutenant are not handled in a sugar-coated, airy-fairy way. Instead they come as ecstatic interludes to really brutal scenes involving nudity, violence and copious amounts of swearing, which earned the film an 18 certificate in the UK and a rare NC-17 in the States.

The film contains several very realistic depictions of drug-taking. Ferrara shoots long, uninterrupted takes in which Keitel meets with his stick-thin dealer, and warms heroin on a spoon with a lighter before injecting it into his arm. In one of the very first scenes, Keitel uses a coke spoon immediately after dropping his young nephews off to school. These scenes are shot in such clinical detail as to make drug-taking about as unglamorous as you can get: as in Requiem for a Dream, the high of taking the drug is cancelled out or overridden by the immediately painful consequences.

This discipline on Ferrara's part is equally present in the rape scene. Having previously made Ms. 45, Ferrara was well aware of the way such scenes would be structured in a duplicitous way: we almost tolerate the horrible violence because we are on the moral side of the victim and are goading her on to take revenge. But Bad Lieutenant doesn't fall into the kind of hideous duplicity present in I Spit On Your Grave. The rape scene focusses on the emotion of the nun and is intentionally repulsive. To reinforce the Christian element of the story, it is intercut with Christ on the cross, screaming as the nun screams. It's a shocking and original way of conveying the idea of Christ feeling every single pain and sin of mankind as He hung there on Good Friday.

Most controversial of all is a scene halfway through Bad Lieutenant, in which Keitel pulls over two girls, to find that they are stoned and driving without a license. Rather than turn them in, he asks one of them to strip and the other to mimic oral sex while he masturbates outside the car. James Ferman, then-Head Censor of the BBFC, was asked on several occasions why he didn't cut that scene; he responded that it was so repulsive that no sane person could possibly find it arousing. The scene is repulsive and goes on a little too long, but it does at least reinforce the distance and desperation of the Lieutenant, and arguably a graphic sex scene with girls half his age would be the greater of two evils.

There are flaws with Bad Lieutenant which prevent it from being a masterpiece. Even as we invest so deeply in Keitel's performance, we can't help wondering why he has been able to stay on the force all this time. He makes next to no effort to cover up his behaviour, and it seems a little far-fetched that even his seasoned colleagues would turn such a blind eye. As the character study deepens, the crime plot becomes almost totally peripheral, and in its weaker moments it can feel like Ferrara is testing our mettle for its own sake, seeing how much nastiness we can take before bringing back the plot to give us relief.

In the end, however, Bad Lieutenant rises above these flaws as a triumphant example of how exploitation cinema can explore serious ideas, in ways which are often more insightful and frequently more provocative than its mainstream equivalents. Keitel is outstanding in the title role, and Ferrara's direction is both merciless and mesmerising. It's a very tough watch for those not familiar with Ferrara or the traditions he has espoused throughout this career. But for those who can go the distance, it is a deeply moving piece of work.
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2007
An intense crime drama as a NY cop sinks into increasing levels of despair. This has a great performance from Keitel and the whole films seem a character study of the Bad lieutenant. The film though goes from one scene to the next of him mainly taking drugs, drinking, stealing drugs from crimes scenes and going to prostitutes. We never know how or why he got like this? Then working on a brutal rape case of a nun he seeks redemption.
Super Reviewer
½ January 23, 2009
Harvey Keitel is the epitome of addiction and immoral turpitude in this gloriously dark rendering of a NYC policeman spiraling into the abyss.
Super Reviewer
½ April 24, 2011
Big up to my buddy John Ritchie for loaning this to me. Watched the remake last week,so he gave me the original to check out,and i'm very happy I watched it. A lot different than the Nicolas Cage flick. Only things in common really is the name, he's a drugged up cop, and he gambles a lot. Other then that, the story is much different. The remake was made in 09 I think,and there is no way the original would be released nowadays,it's just too hardcore of a movie. Hell it's rated NC-17. Overall I think it is better than the remake, I especially like the ending better. Harvey Keitel is the man, not many actors like him out there anymore who would be as daring to create a role like this. Worth a watch, but be warned it's not for the faint of heart.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2011
When it comes to films and the rating system, there is one rating that is the most feared of them all: NC-17. If a film has that rating, then it means two things. The first being is that typically this is a pornographic film and the second is that most theatres will refuse to show this film. This film has pornographic scenes, but do not expect eroticism. Instead, replace that with the language, violent images of Jesus on the cross, and heavy (and I mean HEAVY) drug usage. In terms of directing, this has to be Abel Ferrara's ultimate film he has made. Known for making the unwatchable "The Driller Killer", the man has created one of the most shocking films about a man's downfall that I have ever seen. This film, while being short, has a script that is tight, a simple yet complex plot, and a pace that still leaves me in shock that this man created this film. In terms of acting, what can be said? Each actor that is in this film took it beyond seriously, and it actually pays off. Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs; Pulp Fiction) gives maybe his best performance (tied to being Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs) in his entire career in this film. As you watch him, this film gives you not one single reason to like this man. He is an addict, unforgiving, and an all around terrible person. But as he hits rock bottom at the end, you start to care about him because you have followed him this far and you want to see were he ends up and his ultimate choice. The score to this film, while very little, fills up every scene it is in perfectly. But, what interests me is that in replace for the score, you have instead radio reports of baseball games filling the area, something that becomes almost like a character in this film. For something like that, I am impressed. As a hole, this film is beyond impressive and one of the few film I encourage you to hunt out and see. Watching this film will be unlike any experience you would of ever had.
Super Reviewer
September 16, 2009
People are probably right enough when they comment that this entire film essentially hinges on Harvey Kietel's impassioned performance as the corrupt and deeply troubled lieutenant of the title. Which shouldn't necessarily be taken as a shortcoming - an engrossing lead is the one key thing that any one-man character study like this needs in order to flourish, after all. Whether sobbing, howling or clenching his jaws in anguish, or else hanging his head and sipping liquor in silence, his acting here is always raw, convincing and utterly compelling; the kind of portrayal you'd be hard-pressed to take your eyes off. The exact identity of his character is never revealed, but the title informs us he's a 'bad lieutenant', a label seemingly confirmed by his tendency to indulge in substance abuse, work up heavy gambling debts and even, on occasion, pull over a couple of young female drivers and use them as motivation for his own self-pleasure. Very lurid, and yet the way that Kietel plays him also makes feel completely human. He conveys such pain and desperation behind his each and every immoral action that they never come across as nearly as shocking or vulgar to watch as they are harrowing. It's this alone that enables 'Bad Lieutenant' as a whole to reach the true extent of its potential - what could easily be read off as a plethora of fury, drug-taking, masturbation and full-frontal nudity in practice translates very aptly into a sad and striking depiction of a despondent man who's lost his ability to see goodness in anything in life, and who's sinking ever deeper beneath the weight of all those answers being continuously sought in the wrong places. As you've probably worked out by now, this isn't exactly the balmiest movie you could spending your time with (might be wrong, but I don't think there's a single light-hearted moment to be found in the entire screenplay), but if you can bring yourself to look past the sourness on the surface and instead feel sympathy for this bad lieutenant, as Kietel's involving performance invites us to do, then you'll find some considerable power lurking in its bleakness.

So, while it's Harvey Kietel who really (and rightly) brings things together in 'Bad Lieutenant' and makes it the affecting near-masterpiece that it is, it would be unfair of me to completely overlook Ferrara's role in this equation. He's provided the context against which our centrepiece man must function - a world so run-down, sombre and nihilistic that trying to find redemption round here seems not only impossible, but practically pointless. The mood is well-set by the ever-overcast skies; killing, rape and robbery are rampant, and the Lt isn't exactly given a great deal to aspire to in his day-to-day life. Kietel and his character are admittedly the only things here that come off as particularly outstanding - the vast majority of supporting characters are really all just part of this one big daunting backdrop, with dialogue, screen time and development kept to a strict minimum in each case - though personally I look at this as being more of an additional strength than as a weakness. That everyone else around him always seems so distant only increases the overall feelings of detachment and isolation that draw us deeper into the Lt's outlook.

Christian faith and symbolism are pretty integral to the overall themes of this movie, but even being non-religious myself I find I can still get a good deal of emotional investment in it. It delivers its underlying issues - of non-judgement and the potential for goodness in even the most repellent of sinners - with acute precision, as reflected in the investigation concerning the raping of a young nun which the plot loosely revolves around. While this heinous crime only serves to strengthen the Lt's belief in the general depravity of the world around him, the nun herself has found solace in her refusal to condemn those who wronged her, viewing them instead as victims as their own confusion and despair. There are of course some fairly sharp parallels between this scenario and the Lt's own personal predicament, which any viewer who's really come to feel for him will recognise - as displeasing as some of the things he himself gets up to may be (and the way he incorporates further crime into his efforts to uphold the law), there's that challenge lying at the centre of every scene as to whether or not we're really in any position to pass judgement upon him. All things considered, is it truly a bad lieutenant that he is at heart or just, well, a sad one?

I don't imagine that everyone will quite take to the conclusion this eventually leads to (and which I'm not going to give away here), but considering just how weighty a lot of the issues it addresses really are, you never get the impression that Ferrara ever intended to come up with a cut-and-dried solution of any sorts. Instead, he and Kietel have put together a polished and powerful piece of film-making that, though it deals with some pretty disagreeable and, at the time at least, controversial subject matter, is so rich in great acting (well, one great performance, but it's easily worth the input of an entire cast) and slick atmospherics that it becomes entirely captivating. In the end, it's the surprising amount of depth and emotional muscle that it carries, and not the notorious reputation that it garnered, that 'Bad Lieutenant' really deserves to be remembered for - and remembered I hope it always will be. Another great in early 90s cinema.
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2010
First, this is the lightest NC-17 I've ever seen. Yes, it's got some graphic nudity here and there, but I would use this as exhibit A in my case against the usefulness of the MPAA.
The main attraction of this film is Keitel's strong, engaging, and at times gut-wrenching performance. Although his moaning occasionally seems so personal as to become uncomfortable to watch (in a bad way), it cannot be denied that Bad Lieutenant features a great actor at the top of his form. But the weakness of the film is the fact that we never get to understand why he's so poisoned in the soul. The film makes it clear that we're not supposed to pay attention to the mystery but to the character, however it relies on the horribleness of the crime he investigates to be the only motivator for the way he is. I admit that I sound like a pretentious ass in a creative writing workshop, but it's nonetheless true that the character's starting place seems un- or under-motivated.
As a baseball fan, not a movie fan, I have to level one other serious criticism: the Mets/Dodgers series that serves as the film's backdrop is entirely fictional. The NLCS was between the Braves and Pirates in 1991, which is the only year that Cone and Strawberry were on the Mets and Dodgers respectively. This shouldn't bother me as much as it does.
Super Reviewer
May 11, 2010
There's a ton of police dramas that use the line "He's a cop on the edge", mainly when lead cop in said movie is going to kill a ton of bad guys at the behest of some dead partner or blood relative. Our "cop on the edge" goes on an orgy of violence that ultimately ends with him being congratulated for shooting all the bad guys and being an all around nice guy, even though he's an asshole to everybody.

Bad Lieutenant isn't about a "cop on the edge". It's about a cop that jumped off the edge feet first into whatever private hell he had created for himself. The film stars Harvey Keitel as the bad lieutenant, an investigator with the NYPD whose job isn't even second in his life. First is betting (badly) on baseball. Second is getting high. Third is getting off. Throughout the film crime is something he is more apt to be committing than fighting. Even though the lieutenant is working a case involving a nun who is literally raped on the alter of her church it all is secondary in the story of a man who has hit total rock bottom.

Harvey Keitel delivers one of the greatest performances of his career in this film. Bar none and you have to remember that this guy's worked with Scorsese. He pours his soul into a character that is at one minute pathetic, generating apathy from the audience, to heinous. Keitel fears nothing in performing in this film. His drunken and drug induced binges that cause him to forget about "to serve and protect" show a man that is broken. He's done. There are no scruples for the lieutenant. One particularly disturbing scene involves the main character asking a pair of young girls out for a joy ride to show him how they would perform fellatio or he'll call their dad. The lieutenant then proceeds to fiddle with himself as they mimic as ordered. Rock bottom.

This is a film that goes beyond the idea of gritty. A dark tale from all angles. Bad Lieutenant is basically a redemption tale with our main character trying to claw his way to civilization again from the deepest, darkest hole imagined. It's a film that pulls no punches and is really a disturbing look at how life can turn out for you. A pure morality tale that doesn't feel preachy, yet gets it's point across beautifully.
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2009
A story about a corrupt and burned out cop who does everything by his book, a coke freak, a sex freak, a killer, you name it, The Lieutenant is doing it, while trying to solve the rape of a nun, who doesn't want to prosecute, just forgive (yea Right). Harvey Keitel is the right guy for this movie, Only giving in 3 1/2 stars. Harvey got kind of weird on me when he stopped the underage girls for driving. Could have made this part better or left it out completely.
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2006
Julio: [after giving the Lieutenant drugs] Shit's gonna kill you, man!
The Lieutenant: What the fuck are you? A drug counselor... or a drug dealer? If you don't deal your own product, what kind of businessman are you?

A slow boiling crime drama about a corrupt New York police detective dealing with a drug problem, a gambling problem, and a rape case that may bring to light his own inner demons. Its a tough watch, but Harvey Keitel is absolutely terrific in the role.

Keitel stars as "The Lieutenant," a real bad man. He does just about every drug, abuses his privileges as a police officer, is depending on a certain logic involving the baseball finals for his gambling habits, and has just got himself a new case.

Beat Cop: I told you once before that this guy will come by your house and blow up your house up with your wife and kids and everybody in it. You know that, right?
The Lieutenant: Good, good. I'll give him an extra ten grand for his trouble. I hate that fucking house.

The case in question involves the violent rape of a nun, which brings the Lieutenant's rejection of his Catholic upbringing to light. This begins a rapid spiral downward, with the Lieutenant indulging in more and more sins against himself, as he deals with the problems of his life.

This film has really brought to light how much I like Harvey Keitel as an actor. He is completely absorbed into this role. This is a dark dark character who has pushed himself into an abyss of drugs, sex, and violence, where he only survives by continuing his process. As the film progresses Keitel somehow manages to show what happens when he attempts to exit the abyss. There is a scene, an extended monologue of sorts, involving his collapse and hallucination in a church, which must last for nearly ten minutes, and it is completely raw and scary good.

As a whole, I appreciated what was happening in this film. It was made in 1993, but it seems like it has come right out of the 70s, from the way the grittiness of the direction is handled. I can't imagine what a more polished version of this film would be like, however, inexplicably, a remake with Nic Cage and director Werner Herzog is on the way, so I guess I'll know then.

A very good performance goes a long way for this rough film.

The Nun: [about her attackers] I have forgiven them.
The Lieutenant: But do you have the right? You're not the only woman in the world. You're not even the only nun. Your forgiveness will leave blood in its wake. What if these guys do something like this again? To other women, other virgins? Old women who die from the shock? Do you have the right to forgive them? Can you bear the burden, sister?
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2009
An unforgettable and hard-boiled thriller jammend with stone-cold intensity and witt. A career defining performance that cannot be missed and has to be seen to belived. Harvey Keitel is amasing, he gives one of the great and most unforgettable screen performances of the 90's decade. An extreamly powerful tour de force performance. It stands with his great work in like in Bugsy and Resivor dogs. It hits you hard like a sludge hammer to the head. A pure knockout. A haunting, unsettling, sexually tense and intoxicating drama. It crosses the line to the point where it hits you where it hurts. It's exhilerating, heart-pounding and breathtaking. A fine and intense piece of work that stands as one of the most daring, risky and exceptionaly crafted films of it's time.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2009
The Bad Lieutenant starts the movie by dropping his kids off at school, and before they are even out of sight, he's snorting cocaine in the car, and that might be the nicest thing he does all movie. He's so out-of-control it's amazing he continues to function at all. He catches some underage girls driving with a broken tailpipe and beats off on the side of their car as he makes them "perform" for him (in order to get out of calling their dad). At one point, a fully nude Keitel is dancing around with a woman and a man, and it's suggested that in his drug fueled haze he's been sleeping with the both of them. Meanwhile, a nun has been raped in a church (the attackers use a crucifix to break her hymen). Yeah... this is some movie. Everyone is under the spell of the Mets/Dodgers N.L. championship series (he shoots his car radio over a bad play, only because he's losing so much gambling). When he runs his gambling debt to $120,000, he decides to start shooting heroin. He confronts the nun (who knows who her attackers were) and can't get his head around the fact that she forgives her rapists. What is it about the nun that affects him so deeply he must further medicate himself to black her from his mind? What is it about his own past that he's trying to forget? Why does he continue to punish himself? He digs himself deeper, corrupting all good. It's an absolute corruption of good, and yet the nun is implacable. At the moment he realizes this, he is confronted with a vision of Christ, it's an association of her all forgiving nature with that of Jesus'. In the end, he does something that saves some evil people at the expense of some good people whose money he takes. This is supposed to be an act of redemption, but I found it to be just one more in a series of gross acts by a gross individual. I'm not sure what this movie is trying to say, it seems to just revel in how disgusting it's lead character is. It's not fun to watch, and i'm not sure who this is supposed to appeal to. If the role depends on your sympathy, it doesn't do a very good job of winning it. Still, Harvey Keitel is horrifyingly great as the Bad Lieutenant, it's almost impossible not to watch just to see what he'll do next. I can't imagine another actor doing this role service.
Super Reviewer
February 3, 2009
Hervey Keitel plays a police detective who investigates the brutal gang rape of a Catholic nun while trying to keep his own personal life from getting worse. At times, the movie becomes too self-obsessed with showing how low Keitel can go with brutal drug use, hookers and gambling. But Harv isn't afraid to do it and makes the character his own though it does go too far at times. Worth a watch.
Super Reviewer
½ September 26, 2008
I really liked the subversive atmosphere of the movie & its gritiness & griminess
Super Reviewer
March 1, 2007
*On my "best of the 1990s" list.
Super Reviewer
½ March 4, 2008
No real point to the film besides focusing on how bad the lieutenant, nothing but drugs, gambling, and perverse acts, with no plot connecting them.
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