Film Review: Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Release Date: May 14th, 1992 (Cannes)
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Written by: Zoe Lund, Paul Calderon, Abel Ferrara
Music by: Joe Delia
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Paul Calderón, Leonard Thomas, Robin Burrows, Frankie Thorn, Victoria Bastel, Paul Hipp, Vincent Laresca

Bad Lt. Productions, Aries Films, LIVE Entertainment, 96 Minutes, 91 Minutes (R-rated)

Review:

“Vampires are lucky, they can feed on others. We gotta eat away at ourselves. We gotta eat our legs to get the energy to walk. We gotta come, so we can go. We gotta suck ourselves off. We gotta eat away at ourselves til there’s nothing left but appetite. We give, and give and give crazy. Cause a gift that makes sense ain’t worth it. Jesus said seventy times seven. No one will ever understand why, why you did it. They’ll just forget about you tomorrow, but you gotta do it.” – Zoe

I’ve heard pretty good things about this movie for years but I had never seen it. Sadly, I was really disappointed with it.

It’s a movie about a shitty, completely unlikable character. While that doesn’t mean that a story has to be bad, the problem is that he’s mostly surrounded by other shitty people and the few good ones are in such miserable situations that there really is no silver lining in this film.

Sure, it reflects the really dark parts about life but it doesn’t leave you with much to care about or anything to hope for. There’s nothing that grabs on to you and you’re just taken on a journey with a total piece of shit in the final days of his pathetic life.

I get it, you’re not supposed to like the guy but just making a movie about an unlikable character isn’t a good story. While he does appear to want to do something positive in regards to the nun who was raped, who isn’t seeking justice, I’m left feeling like he’s not really wanting to do it for her or for justice even. He just wants to take his anger and problems out on scumbags that deserve no mercy for their crime.

Apart from the shitty story and shitty characters, the movie is at least fairly well acted and competently shot.

It looks good, as it captures the grittiness of New York.

However, solid cinematography work can’t save a movie that’s just a turd to begin with.

When comparing this to other crime films of the era, movies like Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco are also full of mostly shitty people. However, those movies found a way to make you care about those crappy humans. They had charisma, charm and there was a suave coolness about them.

In Bad Lieutenant, Harvey Keitel is so unlikable and off-putting that it just broke the movie for me. I usually love Keitel but I sat through this whole movie hoping he’d get killed by the end. So I guess when that moment came, I wasn’t disappointed.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other Abel Ferrara films.

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