is a film directed by Abel Ferrara
and released in 1992. It features Harvey Keitel
playing an amoral, corrupt New York
City policeman - the Bad Lieutentant
of the title. The character is not given a name, and is referred to as The Lieutenant
in the credits.
This is a dark and uncompromising film, watching it leaves you drained and leaves the viewer with a feeling of emptiness - the closest comparision I can make is to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Keitel leads double life at home he has a wife and extended family, but at work he is hurtling out of control. He is fighting alcohol and cocaine problems, receiving sexual favours from working girls, and getting deeper and deeper into debt to the mafia by backing the wrong team in the World Series.
Stumbling across the case of a nun who is brutally raped but who refuses to identify her attackers as she has forgiven them, Keitel recalls his catholicism and embarks on a quasi-quest to be redeemed for all the sins he has committed. This character study gives Harvey Keitel the chance to deliver one of the finest performances of his career, the self-loathing of his character is always visible until the climactic wailing 'breakdown' in the church, as Keitel berates Jesus while simulanteously crying out for help.
The look of the film is reminiscent of Ferrara's earlier Driller Killer, the photography is dark, hand held cameras are extensively used and the editing is deliberately jarring. It would be very easy for this film to have fallen flat if it wasn't for the use of such a talented actor in the lead role. Even accounting for this Bad Lieutenant will not be to everyones taste. There are several violent scenes, full-frontal male exposure and use of religous imagery which some christians may find distasteful. But Abel Ferrara is a talented film maker and if you are familiar with any of his other works (The Funeral, King of New York) it will be worth your while giving this film a try.
The screenplay was co-written by Abel Ferrara and Zoe Tamarlaine Lund who appears in the film as Keitel's mistress.