"Vampires are lucky--they can feed on others. We gotta eat away at ourselves...We got to eat away at ourselves until there's nothing left but appetite."
- ZoŽ (ZoŽ Tamerlis) while shooting up heroin
Sight and Sound - 02/01/1993
"...[A] terrifyingly powerful film....Visually visceral....It's narrative heart is palatably spiritual..."
New York Times - 11/20/1992
"?A film that would seem outrageously, unforgivably lurid if it were not also somehow perfectly isncere?.Keitel gives the Lieutenant role his all?"
Chicago Sun-Times - 01/22/1993
"...[The film] takes spirituality and morality more seriously than most films do. And in the bad lieutenant, Keitel gives us one of the great screen performances in recent years..."
Total Film - 08/01/2003
"...Uncut, unique and uncompromising..."
A.V. Club - 07/29/2009
"Ferrara's tale of sin and redemption has a raw, unvarnished power that's embodied by Keitel's performance, and the years have preserved it as an equally potent street-level look at a city."
Harvey Keitel stars as a nameless New York cop, hopelessy addicted to drugs, gambling, and sex, in this intense, hallucinatory portrait of sin and redemption by Abel Ferrara. The film follows the lieutenant as he makes his way to various crime scenes, concerned only with taking bets from his fellow cops on the outcome of the ongoing National League playoffs. As his bad decisions drive him deeper into debt, his life becomes a surreal hell, with a constant intake of crack, coke, heroin, and booze eroding what remains of his sanity. An investigation into the rape of a nun (Frankie Thorn) leads to his spiritual breakdown at the church crime scene, where he sees Jesus and the road to his salvation. This gutsy, highly original tale is one of Ferrara's most perfectly realized films and a pinnacle in the career of Keitel, whose performance transcends the screen in its sheer bravery.
Abel Ferrara's BAD LIEUTENANT is a bleak character study of a corrupt New York City detective who investigates the rape and torture of a nun even as his own life crumbles around him.
Good Vs. Evil |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: November 2, 1992.
Shot on location in Manhattan and the Bronx, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey. The film was photographed in a mere 20 days.
The film is based on a song written by director Abel Ferrara called "The Bad Lieutenant" that, in turn, is based on an incident in which a nun was raped in Spanish Harlem in 1982. Bo Dietl, the policeman who caught the real-life rapists, plays a bearded cop in the movie.
The screenplay was cowritten by ZoŽ Tamerlis (under the alias ZoŽ Lund). Tamerlis also plays the lieutenant's drug-shooting mistress and debuted as an actress in Ferrara's 1981 rape-revenge cult hit, MS. 45.
The part of the lieutenant's daughter is played by Harvey Keitel's real daughter, Stella Keitel.
Keitel has a full-frontal nude scene in this film. In 1993 he appeared in Jane Campion's THE PIANO, in which he also had a full-frontal nude scene. This was a highly succesful period of Keitel's career, thanks to these two critically praised films and RESERVOIR DOGS. Around this time the press began to pay homage to his fearlessly "naked" style of acting.
Keitel commented about the role, "I wanted to play this part because I have a deep desire to know God. Knowing God isn't just a matter of going to confession and praying. We also know God by confronting evil, and this character gave me the opportunity to descend into the most painful part of myself and learn about the dark places."
Director Abel Ferrara says of his star: "Harvey Keitel is a national treasure. His performance is just awesome."
Rap star Schoolly D's "Signifying Rapper" originally appeared on the soundtrack in the film but was later removed for video releases after legal disputes resulting from Schoolly's unauthorized use of a Led Zeppelin sample in the song.
There are R and unrated versions of this film available, with the unrated version being substantially more powerful and disturbing.