I guess in this first wave of reviews, I will be writing a lot of these sentences: This is one of the movies that really influenced me. I watched Bad Lieutenant when I was younger and I was fascinated with this character for quite some time. Call me naive, but I truly believed in that time that police detectives could not behave this way. After some thinking, I finally figured out what was that trait that captivated me after I met The Lieutenant. And that trait was power, absolute power. However, with absolute power comes absolute responsibility. And if you cannot maintain that responsibility, you’re down to drugs and booze to get you through the day.
The bravery and acting skill that Harvey Keitel showed here were something extraordinary. He was The Lieutenant, showing us, honestly, what’s the daily life of this person. You get the feeling that this is a person on a verge of exploding and you don’t want to be anywhere near it when it happens. The movie does not judge this behavior but acts more like a witness, just watches what’s happening, unable not only to intervene but to think of a way how to help. And that’s life. This is a phenomenal character study. Director said that the scene that best describes the movie is the one where he robs the electronics store, leaves, and then gets a call about that same crime. He responds, writes up a report, leaves, and throws the report in the garbage can. Fucking brilliant.
It is early in the morning and our hero, Lieutenant is driving his kids to school. After dropping them off, it’s time for his morning fix as he does cocaine before arriving at the scene of a murder. We follow him over the next few days as his life slowly but surely starts spinning out of control.
Director Abel Ferrara was first noticed back in 1981 with an interesting revenge flick Ms .45. Ten years later we can see that he only improved, especially with pacing. Some of the scenes are so masterfully cut that the emotional impact is sometimes really enormous. The iconic scene featured on the poster is one of them. However, I would like to bring your attention to one of the early ones. Five minutes into the movie, he arrives at a crime scene where two dead girls are sitting in the car. He first looks at their faces and the camera pans down to their breasts. He’s not here to solve a crime but get a little high and satisfy his sick curiosity. Policing is a fucked up job and some of the officers get desensitized to the point they really don’t care.
Bad Lieutenant is a very engaging and interesting movie and although it seems like it’s about some deep philosophical messages, it’s actually a very good thriller. It’s deeply subversive, even with this, at a first glance, evil man. He has wife, two kids, a good paying job and in order to get all this, he undoubtedly had to go through the usual hoops. So, we can say with certainty that this man was once a relatively normal and functioning member of the society. Then something happened, whether gradually or suddenly, it doesn’t matter. He’s able to do all these things and abuse his power without consequences, raising two very important questions: why and how.
Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Bad Lieutenant check out No Rest for the Wicked, Hyena, and Filth. All these movies have that brooding and fucked up atmosphere, so it would be nice to take a look at something more upbeat and cheerful. This is where Torrente comes in.
Director: Abel Ferrara
Writers: Zoë Lund, Abel Ferrara
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Stella Keitel, Frankie Thorn
Fun Stuff: Harvey Keitel stayed in character on set throughout the production.