Bad Lieutenant

1 h 36 min1992X-RayR
A disturbing character study of a corrupt N.Y.C. cop's slide into insanity.
Abel Ferrara
Harvey KeitelVictor ArgoPaul Calderone
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Leonard ThomasRobin Burrows
Mary KaneEdward R. Pressman
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Alcohol usefoul languagenuditysexual contentsubstance useviolence
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4.2 out of 5 stars

812 global ratings

  1. 65% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 9% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Matthew SnopenhauerReviewed in the United States on July 3, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Ferrara classic, but do not watch on Prime
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great movie but BEWARE: Prime version is heavily censored. Footage is heavily cut from nun assault scene, Jersey girls pulled over scene, more. This kind of censorship really changes the whole movie overall, so to experience and review properly, see the NC-17 version or at least R version that isn't so mutilated.
76 people found this helpful
jewel von mayhemReviewed in the United States on October 26, 2018
1.0 out of 5 stars
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I'm sorry but you can't really call it "Bad" Lieutenant if you're gonna take all the good parts out 😒
If you really want a good time go find the uncut version.
60 people found this helpful
D. LarsonReviewed in the United States on July 16, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Frankly, I enjoyed Nic Cage’s take more, and, Don’t Cross the Streams!
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I realize “Bad Lieutenant” is supposed to be a sort of gritty masterpiece from NYC’s grimy years, an acting tour-de-force by Harvey Keitel, and a deep, significant examination of the power of Catholic guilt, drugs, corruption and bad police work. I probably thought so too, back when I saw it years ago.

Now? When Keitel starts his wordless keening and howling, I’m eye-rolling. What must have seemed an authentic expression of inner sorrow and misery back then, now it’s verging on ludicrous. It’s just too darn much! Tone it down a little, Harvey, you’re scaring the horses.

There’s a line in “Trainspotting” where Rent Boy explains just why he does heroin. “Take your best orgasm ever, multiply that feeling by twenty and you’re still miles off the pace!” Sure, things go downhill rapidly for Renton and his mates, but at least there’s a reference to the lads enjoying their drugs. In “Bad Lieutenant”, Keitel never hints at getting the slightest pleasure from his heroin, cocaine, weed, whiskey or hookers. He’s miserable before, miserable during and miserable after. He gets no kick from champagne, either. Strictly maintenance.

Because of that great load of spiritual guilt and bookie debt he’s carrying, I expect. Taking the spiritual first, in Matthew, the Disciples are told that the “Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” In “Bad Lieutenant”, Keitel is attempting the opposite. His spirit may have cratered, but that pasty unshaven flesh must be strong as several oxen to survive the wide range of contraindicated substances he’s putting up his nose, down his throat and into his veins. I wouldn’t expect he could make it to the end of the movie with a pulse.

Then again, there are examples like Keith Richards and Iggy Pop and Steven Tyler, guys who give the lie to the whole “flesh is weak” thing. The flesh must be darned resilient for those guys to be breathing, so we can buy Keitel staggering through his days as a homicide detective. Sort of.

You’d think that the guys in the squad room would notice the lurching and glassy eyes, if not the smell. It was a simpler time in NYC, but still. And what kind of bookie keeps letting this obvious degenerate gambler keep rolling over his debts? One with a lack of sound business instincts. You have to know your customers better than that. And have some contingency for collecting bad debts.

The unrelenting misery and doom-laden pronouncements, interleaved with the Dodgers and Mets, make for an unpleasant grind on re-viewing. Kind of sorry I disabused myself of the notion that this was an Important Cinema. The women in the movie exist only to be abused for the sake of Keitel’s increased self-loathing or to provide more drugs to increase Keitel’s self-loathing. Think you got enough self-loathing already there, Harvey.

I enjoyed Nicolas Cage hallucinating a mile a minute, talking to iguanas and laughing manically in his, shall we say, idiosyncratic interpretation, the oddly titled “Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans”. A typically strange Cage outing, but interesting in a way that Keitel’s movie no longer is. And funnier.

Also. This stream is pretty much the basic cable version. That is, sliced and diced to eliminate anything offensive beyond a few shouted imprecations. Seriously, there must be ten minutes missing of Harvey hanging out full frontal. Not that I miss those minutes that much, we’ve all seen more than enough of his various appendages over the years, and eliminating some gratuitous violence isn’t necessarily a terrible edit.

But, either the movie is director Abel Ferrara’s vision, or it isn’t. This sanitized re-edit could run on basic cable with about ten seconds of digital blurs added. If Amazon is going to stream this mutilated version, it should come with a disclaimer that this is the anti-director’s cut.

Also, the image quality is strictly meh. I guess if you want to see “Bad Lieutenant” the way Ferrara wanted you to, you’ll have to check out the Blu Ray.
17 people found this helpful
Steve ArminReviewed in the United States on July 18, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Very good movie but it's been edited
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Keitel is at his best and the movie shows a veteran NY detective in the throws of addiction, perversion, corruption, and alienated from his family. What I didn't care for was the fact that the Prime streaming version has been edited. Although this is "free with a Prime subscription", I'm still paying for the subscription. After being able to view the deleted scene on Youtube I can say that what's been cut isn't more graphic than stuff I'd already seen in other videos I've streamed from the site, however what Amazon cut out did, in fact, give more insight into how sick the lead character was. This dissappointed me.
18 people found this helpful
David Y.Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
A couple of observations
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I wish Amazon still offers the functionality to allow users to comment on other users' reviews. It was a welcome feature that sparked many a lively discussions. I don't feel the need to crank out another repetitive full-fledged review here. I merely wish to respond to some of the other reviewers' comments.

1. Some reviewers complain that the drug use scenes were gratuitously graphic. Perhaps - perhaps it was a touch gratuitous in places, but the element is central to the film's artistic vision. The oodles of drugs being passed around and consumed, the blood filling the syringe before mixing with the heroin and re-injected into the vein - these represent a depraved, debased parody of the Christian Eucharist, the communion from the false gods that the Lieutenant worships. Incidentally, some reviewers likened Darryl Strawberry to Satan taunting Keitel's "Christ-like" suffering. Nah - his character suffers, but he's hardly "Christ-like", and Strawberry was only one of the many false idols that this lost soul worships.

2. Frankie Thorn as the young nun was much too movie-star gorgeous to make a credible nun, despite an earnest performance from the actress. It doesn't mean that the role could've only gone to a "plain Jane", but it does require more of a backstory to sell someone who looks like Frankie Thorn as a nun. Perhaps she's a nun visiting from Ireland, someone from a remote farmstead well-sheltered from the contaminants of the modern world. It would also have added depth to the character and the story - In real life such a person would have elicited condescension from many (myself probably included), and maybe evencontempt from some. But in the end it was her simple pure faith that proved stronger than the cynicism of the world.
Micki AllenReviewed in the United States on June 8, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Thorny Business of Finding Forgiveness
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Finally watched this film after dozens of friends recommended it over the years. As a practicing Catholic, I knew it would be very difficult to watch. Final analysis? Superb film. In the interest of full disclosure, I did have to stop the movie twice during the rape scene. But even more devastating to my mind was the hospital scene -- which explained the nature of the crime in fuller detail. The psychological and metaphysical implications of Ferrara's film are limitless. Other reviewers, far more gifted than myself, have already smartly dissected this piece; so I write only to weigh in on the themes of Forgiveness and Redemption.

Keitel oozes pure pathos as the Bad Lieutenant. In Ferrara's case, you can take the boy out of the Faith, but you can't take the Faith out of the boy. The fact that The Lieutenant comes across as morally lower than the dregs he is supposed to protect society from is obviously no mistake. He hasn't fallen on hard times, the man is simply detestable scum. This particular fallen man, presumably redeemed by his faith, has become so abhorrent that he is the cause of his own destruction via drug and gambling addiction. This is unadulterated Shakespearean Tragedy. The fact that Ferrara chose to make the main character a Lieutenant, instead of just another "bad cop" is delightfully ironic, given that a lieutenant is often "second in command" -- and Keitel's character is absolutely NOT in command but rather completely controlled by his own vices.

Frankie Thorn gives an admirable performance as the Nun. Even with very little dialogue, she conveys the Nun's devoutness with her masterful facial expressions, which are almost eerily compassionate and clement. Her ability to forgive her attackers is so incongruous with the Lieutenant's natural response of indignation, that he not only finds her act of charity unfathomable but also, amazingly, repugnant. However, whatever good character that survives in the Lieutenant is able to respond to her declaration of forgiveness with true contrition, begging Christ for mercy. It is this deep contrition that propels the Lieutenant to perform his own unfathomable act of charity.

I sympathize with, but respectfully disagree with, those who find the Lieutenant's act towards the rapists as heinous. Like St. Dismas, the Lieutenant is justly punished for his crimes in the final scene, but only after he is redeemed by his own work of charity and act of faith (keep in mind he does as the Nun would have him do). As to the eventual and final fates of the rapists, Ferrara is acutely silent.
18 people found this helpful
Joseph LaCerraReviewed in the United States on July 18, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
Dark and Boring
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I found this movie dark and boring - literally dark as well as figuratively dark. No real story, it just posts one gritty installment of this cop's slide into sub-human depths of depravity after another. None of these segments is either interesting or entertaining. Although Keitel does a good job of portraying this despicable person you never forget that it is Keitel portraying this despicable person. The background noise of the incessant twaddle about the World Series is just annoying and distracting. Could not finish.
4 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on September 10, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
No progression in story Just daily debauchery by Keitel as a bad cop
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Harvey Keitel is the Bad Lieutenant. He’s a New York City detective that does drugs, allows petty crime, and gambles. He represents how corrupt the police have become.

Keital really plays the crooked detective well. He drops off his kids at school and then does some cocaine. He extorts money from two shoplifters. He parties while on the job. He even tries to steal drugs from a crime scene. He has absolutely no shame and no scruples. It’s an open question if he ever does any real police work or if he thinks what he does is his job. Because he’s a detective he thinks he has the privilege to profit from his position.

The problem with the movie is that there is no progression in the story. It’s just Keitel’s daily debauchery. It’s interesting at first to see what he tries to get away with but you’d like something to happen him at the end, anything other than the way the story concludes.
One person found this helpful
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