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Drama - Police

Bad Lieutenant (1992)


Duration 1h 36m Rating (UK) 18 (NC-17 in USA)
Source of story An original screenplay
Director Abel Ferrara
Writers/Script Zoë Lund, Abel Ferrara
Starring Harvey Keitel, Frankie Thorn, Paul Hipp, Zoë Lund, Eddie Daniels (I have named the relatively unknown actors who I thought contributed most).

Elevator Pitch: A police lieutenant (un-named) is gambling heavily and getting into debt with the mob, causing him to behave increasingly erratically, particularly since he is circulating in an underworld environment which involves drinking, drugs and sex. When he becomes the lead investigator in the rape of a young nun in a church, by this time seeing visions of Jesus, he seems to realise that he should change his life before it is too late –  but perhaps it is.

Content: A lot of scenes which were cut from the R rated version in America, so in the original was both male and female nudity, with sexual activity, real and simulated as well as masturbation. Various drugs ingested, orally, nasally, and  main lined and constant drinking mostly from quarter bottles. The rape takes place, the lieutenant sleeps on a pew, waking sees the police checking the scene. Later he sees the nun naked being examined in hospital, and eventually confronts her as she says she forgives the rapists.

A View: This extreme outing was generally well thought of. Roger Ebert gave it four stars out of four and Martin Scorsese named it as one of the best films of the 90s. At best this is a disturbing film, one would say intentionally, and may have been well thought of because all the actors needed to be courageous to take part, particularly Harvey Keitel who had recently starred in Reservoir Dogs, and who was to go on to be Mr Wolf in Pulp Fiction. What can I say? I found it difficult to watch, but could be essential viewing for film buffs – but only in the original version.

Additionally Info: Zoë Lund, who as well as being a heroin user in the film was apparently one in real life, and died of a related heart attack at the age of 37. By then she had claimed that she had written the script herself, the director contributing little. Her boyfriend at the time also claimed to have written it.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels



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