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Bad Lieutenant
Bad Lieutenant
Actors: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Paul Calderon, Leonard L. Thomas, Robin Burrows
Director: Abel Ferrara
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Cult Movies, Mystery & Suspense
R     2001     1hr 36min

He's a gambler...a thief...a junkie...a killer and a cop. Now he is investigating the most shocking case of his life and as he moves closer to the truth his self-destructive past is closing in.System Requirements:Starring ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Paul Calderon, Leonard L. Thomas, Robin Burrows
Director: Abel Ferrara
Creators: Victor Argo, Paul Calderon, Abel Ferrara, Diana Phillips, Edward R. Pressman, Mary Kane, Zo Lund
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Cult Movies, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Crime, Religion, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Lions Gate
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 08/14/2001
Original Release Date: 11/20/1992
Theatrical Release Date: 11/20/1992
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish
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Movie Reviews

How can you forgive that...
Paul Fogarty | LA, United States | 09/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had heard, by word of mouth over the years, that "Bad Lieutenant" was truly extraordinary, but nothing could really prepare me for the sheer visceral impact of the film, or the electrifying, career best performance, given by Harvey Keitel, in fact I watched the film 3 days ago, and have deliberately waited `til now to write this review. After much thought I have to say that "Bad Lieutenant" really is a monstrous train-wreck of a movie, but what keeps you watching, utterly mesmerized, unable to look away for an instant, is Keitel's performance as the titular character. He's never given a name in the film, or even in the credits, he's just the "Lieutenant," and "Bad?" "Bad" doesn't even begin to describe this guy, as the front of the DVD case puts it, "Gambler. Thief. Junkie. Killer. Cop." After surviving on the mean streets of New York for 20 years, he has seen, and pretty well done, it all; the "Lieutenant" is a man who exists in a nihilistic Hell of his own making, and we watch as he roars headlong towards his own destruction, along the way, plumbing the very depths of abject human depravity. A lapsed Catholic, he is still wracked by guilt for the truly awful deeds he commits, whether it's doing and/or selling drugs, booze, sex, gambling, thieving, killing, the "Lieutenant" is a soul in torment. Unable to find a way out, he is sinking deeper and deeper into a morass of yet MORE drugs, MORE booze, MORE bets he can't cover, and more, meaningless, cold, emotionless, and depraved, sexual acts.Yet somewhere deep inside this blasted shell of a man, there still exists a spark of humanity, so lost in the wretched, savage squalor of his life, that even HE doesn't know it's there. Then one day he becomes involved in the investigation of a crime that shocks even him... the brutal rape of a Catholic nun. Initially coldly dismissive of what the young woman had been through, he listens in on her conversations with her superiors and is shocked to his core to discover that even though her bruises are still fresh, she has already forgiven her attackers. She knows their names but won't pass them on to the police. The "Lieutenant" can barely comprehend how can such a thing can be, how can she forgive such a terrible act... such a terrible sin? If she can forgive so much, then maybe, just maybe, he himself can find some kind of redemption, maybe someone - God? - can forgive him HIS sins. After his confrontation with the nun, howling out his characters pain, and anger, and hurt, and fear, Harvey Keitel gives the most searingly honest, desperate, and emotionally raw performance of his career.Bleak, brutal, depraved, and honest, are some of the words that I would use to describe this film, which is NOT easy to watch, especially this NC-17 version, but it's a film that SHOULD be watched by anyone who is serious about Cinema as an art form. Between them, Ferrera and Keitel have produced an extraordinary cinematic experience, unbending and uncompromising in its exploration of the human condition, powerful and unforgiving, it forces you to actually THINK about the subject matter, and to face the rotten darkness in the heart of this particular human soul.I would like to end this review with a bit of trivia concerning Keitel's performance. Regardless of whether you love this film or hate it - like "2001," this film seems to generate extreme reactions - no one can argue about the power, and sheer gut-wrenching truthfulness, of Keitel's performance. Depending on exactly when the film was released, Keitel would have been eligible for a shot at either the '92 or '93 Oscar for Best Actor. So who won? Well, I looked it up, and Keitel "lost" to, either, Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman" in '92, or, God help us, Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia" in '93! Next time I find myself getting even mildly curious about who's taking home one of the gold statuettes, this little bit of trivia will kind-of put the whole tawdry circus into perspective!"
To the depths of hell and clawing his way out
Judy K. Polhemus | LA | 05/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Whisper his name. Harvey Keitel. Shout his name. Harvey Keitel. No matter. He did not win any awards for this role, this damnation, this damned man, a police detective in "Bad Lieutenant."

There's a song, "Bad to the Bone," which might sum up the detective, or it might not be strong enough because Harvey Keitel's character is bad to the bone and then some. He lives as a family man, but on the edge, clearly not part of this family, a stuffed man, stuffed with aloneness, stuffed with horrors of his own making. Director Abel Ferrara's filming technique extends this isolation by making the movie look like a docudrama. Filmed on location. No takes. Shoot as is. Keep the cameras rolling.

He starts the day clean as he drops his two sons off at school. During the course of the day he investigates two vicious murders, a store theft he turns to his advantage by keeping the stolen money, does drugs with a stoned out, emaciated redhead, and engages in a menage-a-trois with two women. During this scene he evens out the equal rights debate for male actors to engage in full frontal nudity. Yes, he does. Then he gets his life-defining case--the vicious rape of a young nun by two local petty drug dealers.

Harvey Keitel has spent the day engaged in personal encounters with, well, let's name it, sins of the flesh, of the soul. He sees the nun several times over the next few days, trying to understand what happened to her. When she tells him with her own mouth that she forgives the two men and will not identify them or name them, but only forgives them, he has a major crisis of conscience.

One reviewer calls this film a major religious movie, and, indeed, it becomes so. These are scenes to cherish for their truthful beauty, for their naked exposure of a soul in dire peril. Harvey Keitel produces a keening for his soul the like which will make your hair stand on end. The following scenes need to be seen and not read.

What transpires resonants with the viewer as the viewer comes to understand the moment's eternal meaning. No more will I say.

Note: This movie is rated NC-17 and is not for the squeamish.
The pinnacle of Ferrara's career.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 08/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, 1992)

Abel Ferrara has had a long and checkered career in the film industry, never quite achieving commercial success, turning out films that are alternately brilliant and boring. And in the middle of all of it, there is Bad Lieutenant, which to date stands alone as Ferrara's magnum opus, an incredibly powerful piece of work

The unnamed lieutenant (called "LT" in the credits and played to the hilt by Harvey Keitel) starts off the movie looking like any other guy, but it only takes a few minutes of us looking in on his day to realize this isn't your ordinary cop. In fact, he's a downright sleaze. Soon enough, he catches the case that will end up becoming the focus of his career-- the rape of a young nun (Stigmata's Frankie Thorn). At first, he tries to treat it like every other case, but as his life begins to spiral out of control, he becomes more and more obsessed with the deeper symbolism of the case itself, how justice and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin.

The case is there, but it's only as important to the film as the mythical Mets-Dodgers NL playoff constantly on radios and televisions (obviously meant to mirror the '88 NL playoffs, but the movie's playoffs differ in certain important ways to parallel better with the plot structure)-- both are only pieces of the puzzle that is the lieutenant. The movie is Harvey Keitel's, pure and simple, a character study of a man whose bad habits have finally caught up with him And Keitel plays it wonderfully. He is the reason to watch this movie. And even if he is the only reason (let's be frank, this is not a film for the squeamish, as many reviews and viewer comments have made clear; it's NC-17 for a reason), he's still worth it. The finest performance of Harvey Keitel's career, and that's saying something. ****"
Powerful film about sin, forgiveness and redemption
Judy K. Polhemus | 03/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For everyone who thinks that this film is only about depravity, think again. This is a powerful film about sin, forgiveness, and redemption. It may be one of the most religious films of our times or about our times. The acting by Harvey Keitel is just superb.Most of the movie explores every type of addiction that can be thought of...drugs, alcohol, deviant sex, gambling...all spiraling downward into an abyss of emptiness. Finally, when the Bad Lieutenant can see nothing but the dregs of his miserable existence, he is confronted by something that truly shakes him: not a bad dose of cocaine or heroin, not big losses on gambling, but the unbelievable example of a fellow human being who demonstrates true, unconditional love. His anguished cry for forgiveness is the most moving part of the film and leads to his ultimate redemption. The Bad Lieutenant is the good thief on the cross of our times."