peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 08 25 BadLieutenant

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

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Abel Ferrara's followup to King of New York. It's mostly there in the title, once you know we're still in NYC and Ferrara is fascinated by powerful people, here the police. Harvey Keitel (of the title) is in every scene and does drugs in almost all. Otherwise he's gambling on the baseball playoffs. This takes up a lot of screen time and soon enough becomes tedious. I wasn't invested enough to figure out exactly how he is connected to all the people he encounters. If the dialogue had been in any way engaging and Keitel a more flexible actor it might have been an American east-coast Naked.

The notional main thread of the plot is a very heavy-handed treatment of the rape of a Catholic nun. Ultimately the main conflict is between her, who forgives, and Keitel who insists on some kind of justice. (At times I was reminded a bit of The Last Temptation of Christ or at least Peter Gabriel's soundtrack.) The final scenes at the Greyhound bus stop are very emotive but not enlightening. An earlier scene where he bails up some underage Jersey ladies on a night out is cringey and ineffective.

Roger Ebert: four stars. Keitel is courageous, sure, but that doesn't mean it's a great performance. Go see Goodfellas. A B-Movie. Janet Maslin: a Critic's Pick. Uneven but interesting. Keitel "gives the Lieutenant's role his all, which is sometimes more than it requires".