Bad Lieutenant (1992)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBB

USA, 1992.  Screenplay by Abel Ferrara, , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Harvey Keitel is the perfect choice to play this dangerous role in Abel Ferrara’s strong if overripe drama about a cop who frequently colours outside the lines. He snorts cocaine after dropping his kids off at school, he forces young women to have sex with him to get out of getting arrested, and while his wife waits patiently at home (we assume, since we barely see her), he frequents the company of prostitutes with whom he does drugs.

All this is juxtaposed against the latest case he is working on, the rape of a nun who insists that she bears her attackers no ill will and forgives them. Keitel is forced to undergo a crisis of conscience as he wonders how it is that a woman so maltreated can be so beneficent while he, whose role it is to protect people, can barely muster up the strength to show humanity any good will.

Keitel’s performance is thoroughly committed, bravely emotional and sometimes terrifying, but he is let down by Ferrara’s arch symbolism and pretentious themes of sin and redemption. It’s not nearly as complex a film as it thinks it is, but it is absorbing and never for a minute boring, even by the time its lead character has his umpteenth emotional breakdown in public.

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