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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Bad Lieutenant


Starring: Harvey Keitel
Fabulous Films
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 16 April 2012

An unnamed murder detective is on a downward spiral of bad bets, drug abuse and moral decrepitude until the rape of a local nun makes him consider that the time is not yet lost for his own redemption...


Bad Lieutenant (1992 - 1 hr, 36 min, 13 sec) is a very hard hitting drama written and directed by Abel Ferrara and co-written by Zoe Lund. The film was made on a very modest budget, which in this Blu-ray release often shows. Harvey Keitel won two awards for best actor and the film was nominated for a further four.

This has never been an easy film to watch. Harvey Keitel turns in one of his best and most unsettling performances as the unnamed cop, the odd mewing noise he makes, when his character is high on drugs, naked and in extreme emotional pain, put my teeth on edge. Keitel provides a wonderfully disturbing portrayal as the human train crash.

There are hints that things have not always been the same. The Lieutenant has two sons, a daughter (played by Keitel’s own daughter), and at some point in the past, presumably a wife, all the paraphernalia of an ordinary life. We are not even told what happened to him. When we meet him he is morally bankrupt, a junkie who masturbates over young girls, just to feel something, some connection to the rest of humanity. As much as the audience finds him repugnant, the lieutenant finds himself even more so.

Following the cop around, watching him engage in graphic drug taking, would be very dull in the extreme so the film parallels his downward spiral with that of his out of control gambling on the World Series, loosing bigger and bigger amounts, which if he cannot pay will threaten his life.

The nexus of his change, as the film is ultimately about redemption and its possibility, is the rape of a nun. Mired, as he is, in corruption he cannot understand why, or even how, the nun can forgive her attackers. His realisation, that she really means what she says, makes him think about his own life and chances for change.

SPOILER - At the end of the film, when he catches the two young men who raped the nun, he has fifty grand in a box; the reward for catching them is another fifty grand, which would have removed all his problems with the mafia, but then what? You get the feeling that he already knows that redemption is too late for him, so he gives the money to the boys and lets them go, making his own death a certainty. He can no longer see a way to save himself so he chooses to save the boys.

The film was made on a miniscule budget. For the most part the daytime scenes look slightly grainy, but fine. The night shots, however, have a distinct lack of contrast, though the grungy effect that this causes is not out of step with the film's aesthetics. The audio is a basic two-channel with an informative full length commentary by the director.

The Blu-ray has very few extras, the largest of which is an interview (11 min, 19 sec) with Abel Ferrara, who spends as much time talking about his new projects as he does about the film. He also provides an introduction (36 sec) to the film. The disc is wrapped up with the original trailer (2 min, 08 sec), some cast and crew biographies and a stills gallery.

Never an easy watch; but certainly a required one. The film will create a reaction in its audience, even if it is only one of disgust.


Charles Packer

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