Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Abel Ferrara|
|Produced by||Edward R. Pressman|
|Written by||Zoë Lund
|Music by||Joe Delia|
|Editing by||Anthony Redman|
|Distributed by||Aries Films (Theatrical)
Lions Gate Films (US home media)
|Running time||96 minutes
91 minutes (Edited cut)
Bad Lieutenant is a 1992 crime-drama film directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Harvey Keitel as the eponymous "bad lieutenant". The screenplay was written by actress-model Zoë Lund. She also played a small role in the film. Lund had been discovered by Ferrara and had starred in his earlier film, Ms. 45.
The film opens in the Bronx, where The Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) drops his two sons off at Catholic school. After they leave the car, and before he drives to work, the Lieutenant takes a few small bumps of cocaine. His first case is a double murder. He wanders away from the scene to get some coffee, and across the street, he watches a petty thief rifling through the trunks of parked cars, which the Lieutenant ignores. In the next scene, the detective approaches a group of drug dealers, who run off as he approaches. The Lieutenant follows one dealer into an apartment building and up the stairs. The dealer waits for him in the hallway, and the Lieutenant gives him a bag of drugs from a crime scene. The Lieutenant quickly smokes some crack, and then sets aside a portion of the drugs for himself. The thief promises to give him the money he makes from selling the drugs in a few days. At an apartment, the Lieutenant gets drunk and engages in a threesome with two women.
Meanwhile, a nun (Frankie Thorn) is raped in a church by two young hoodlums. In the hospital, the Lieutenant spies on her naked body as she is examined by the doctors, who explain that the two boys also raped her with objects like a crucifix. The Lieutenant listens to her statement, where she says she has no feelings of animosity towards her attackers. She sees the attack as an opportunity for God's grace to be bestowed on them.
The next morning, the Lieutenant is passed out on the couch in his home as his two young daughters watch TV. His family comes to the table for breakfast, and he stirs. He immediately flips the TV to see the results of a National League Championship series between the Mets and the Dodgers. Realizing he has lost his bet, he stumbles out of the house. He tries to win back his money by doubling his wager on the next game in the series. The Mets have lost the first three games, and he is certain that the Dodgers will win again. His wager now stands at $30,000, more than he can afford to pay.
As the film progresses, his drug use and drinking becomes more prolific and his behavior spins out of control. He is drinking and driving while he listens to the final moments of the next game in the pennant series. When the Dodgers lose, he shoots out his car stereo. At another crime scene, he rifles through the car and finds some drugs which he stashes in his suit jacket. However, he is too impaired to secure the drugs, and they fall out onto the street. His colleagues look at him in horror, and he tries to play it off by instructing them to enter the drugs into evidence.
At the First Communion of one of his children, he doubles his wager again on the series, bringing his potential losings to $60,000. The friend who places his bets for him urges him not to deepen his predicament, but the Lieutenant is positive that the Mets cannot continue to win, as no team has ever come back from three straight losses to begin a series. As his criminality deepens, the Lieutenant pulls over two young girls who have borrowed their father's car to go to a club. Without proper licenses, he forces the girls to strip and simulate oral sex while he masturbates.
After the Mets win game 6 of the series, he tries to double his wager again. His friend refuses to make the wager, insisting that the bookie would kill him for nothing, and it would be suicidal to owe him $120,000. The Lieutenant is unwavering in his belief that the Mets cannot win the series, and he appears to heavily identify with Darryl Strawberry, whose at-bats are the only real action shown from the series. He calls the bookie to place the bet, and the bookie says he will think about taking it.
Continuing his drug use, the Lieutenant picks up his $30,000 share from the drug dealer who sold the evidence he had stolen. He then goes to the church where the nun was raped and finds her kneeling in prayer before the altar. In a near-stupor from his drinking and drug use, he tells her that most cops would just run her attackers through the system but that if she will identify them he will give her justice, implying that he will kill them for her. She repeats that she has forgiven them already then gets up and leaves the lieutenant alone on his knees at the altar. The lieutenant suffers an emotional breakdown. He sees the crucified Christ standing in the aisle of the church and, in tears, begins to hurl curses at him before finally confessing his own weakness and begging forgiveness for his crimes. He crawls to the figure before him and kisses the bloody feet only to look up and see a woman holding a gold chalice. The woman tells him that the two rapists pawned the chalice at her husband's store.
The Lieutenant then tracks down the two rapists and cuffs them together. He holds them at gunpoint and then has them light a crack pipe which he then smokes with them as they watch the Mets make their historic comeback and win the pennant. Instead of booking the two rapists, he takes them to the Port Authority and puts them on a bus with the cigar box containing the $30,000. He insists that they take the bus and never come back to New York City. After he leaves the terminal, he parks on the street. Another car drives up beside him, and a voice yells, "Hey, cop!" before several shots ring out. The film closes as bystanders realize the Lieutenant has been murdered and start to gather around his car.
Alternate versions 
The film was originally rated NC-17, one of the few movies to be rated NC-17 with drug use cited as one of the main reasons (the only other film being Comfortably Numb). The NC-17 cut was described for "sexual violence, strong sexual situations and dialogue, graphic drug use".
Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, the largest video rental companies in the United States, had a policy prohibiting the purchase and rental of NC-17 films. An R-rated cut was created specifically so that Blockbuster and the other retailers would rent and purchase out the film. The R-rated cut was described with "drug use, language, violence, and nudity".
Bad Lieutenant has a 76% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 29 positive reviews out of 38. Writing in the New York Times, Janet Maslin praised Ferrara's talent for making "gleefully down-and-dirty films", continuing, "He has come up with his own brand of supersleaze, in a film that would seem outrageously, unforgivably lurid if it were not also somehow perfectly sincere." Desson Howe called the Lieutenant "a notch nicer than Satan" in the Washington Post, and he cites Keitel's work as the film's saving grace, "It is only the strength of Keitel's performance that gives his personality human dimension.".
Mark Kermode has mentioned that the film was praised as "a powerful tale of redemptive Catholicism". Roger Ebert stated that "in the Bad Lieutenant, Keitel has given us one of the great screen performances in recent years". Martin Scorsese named this movie as the fifth best movie of the 1990s.
An unrelated follow-up, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, was released in 2009, seventeen years following the first film's release. The film was directed by Werner Herzog and described as being "neither a sequel nor a remake."
- Bad Lieutenant (1992) - Box office / business - IMDb
- "Festival de Cannes: Bad Lieutenant". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
- Maslin, Janet (November 20, 1992). "Jaded Cop, Raped Nun: Bad Indeed". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
- Howe, Desson (January 29, 1993). "Bad Lieutenant". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
- Kermode, Mark (December 24, 2006). "Why the Life of Brian beats The Passion of The Christ". The Observer. Archived from the original on 19 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- Ebert, Roger (January 22, 1993). "Review of Bad Lieutenant". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- Ebert, Roger (26 February 2000). "Ebert & Scorsese: Best Films of the 1990s". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- Douglas, Edward (2008-07-05). "Exclusive: The Bad Lieutenant is NOT a Remake!". ComingSoon.net (Coming Soon Media, L.P). Archived from the original on 10 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
- Bad Lieutenant at the Internet Movie Database
- Bad Lieutenant at Box Office Mojo
- Bad Lieutenant at Rotten Tomatoes