Bad Lieutenant Reviews
While Kietel was absolutely fantastic, the movie needed more plot underneath the man to make this a 4 star movie.
It was just watching a guy get high all movie, which got a little old.
Years of navigating the rough streets of NYC as a cop have taken more than a toll on Ferrara's Lieutenant. We never know if our protagonist was ever a good guy, but a number of things indicates that he might have been. But the story begins with an aging cop who is addicted to gambling, drugs, sex and power. Interestingly, his only real power seems to lie in his ability to sexually abuse teenagers so they can avoid a visit to jail. It is a risky film on so many levels.
When The Lieutenant is handed the case of the rape of a young nun, it sends him on a downward existential spiral. Slowly this angry burned-out bully of a man is forced to face the horrors of his world and the growing awareness that he is a part of the horrors rather than someone trying to prevent them. It almost seems as if The Lieutenant takes on not only the guilt but the trauma of the rape in a more profound way than the nun herself. Unable to come to terms with faith's willingness to forgive, Keitel's Bad Lieutenant becomes impotent, muted and alone.
It is a grim and unforgettable film. The low budget of the movie only seems to add to the grit and realism of what we see. It would be short-sighted to view this film's graphic depiction of sexual violence, nudity and drug use as "exploitive" -- this angry movie has something to say and it demands that we listen.
Another thematic element that brings Bad Lieutenant beyond a character study of a disturbed individual is the element of redemption (particularly of the Christian faith, but an abstraction which spreads to humanity), find salvation in the midst of corruption, turning "bitter semen into fertile sperm" as the raped nun appropriately phrases.
Keitel's character piques at the end when he has a most memorable melt down in front of an unflinching image of Jesus Christ. This Christ turns out to be a hallucination which in turn helps him find personal redemption, but whether it is enough to cure his emptiness is highly questionable.
Justice is ultimately served on all ends. The film concludes appropriately on a grim note. Director Abel Ferrara outdid himself as did all other cast and crew in this seminal film, arguably one of the darkest gems of the 90's and one of the great cult films of all time.
Some are bound to be turned away by its NC-17 amoralistic content and decadence, but accepting this in tandem with the underlying themes of redemption and resolution is what makes this a classic.