Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Abel Ferrara|
|Produced by||Edward R. Pressman|
|Written by||Zoë Lund, Paul Calderon|
|Music by||Joe Delia|
|Editing by||Anthony Redman|
|Distributed by||Aries Films
Lions Gate Entertainment (2003-)
|Release date(s)||November 20, 1992|
|Running time||Original cut
|Followed by||Port of Call New Orleans|
Bad Lieutenant is a 1992 crime-drama film directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Harvey Keitel as the eponymous "bad lieutenant". The screenplay was co-written by actress-model Zoë Tamerlis Lund (credited as Zoë Lund). She also played a small role in the film. Lund had been discovered by Ferrara and had starred in his earlier film, Ms. 45. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.
Keitel's nameless character is a corrupt police lieutenant who, throughout the movie, is spiralling rapidly into various drug addictions, including cocaine and heroin. The "Bad Lieutenant" is also a gambler who finds himself plunged into debt when the New York Mets win a fictitious National League Championship Series after trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers and former Met Darryl Strawberry 3-0. The Mets' comeback is a sort of "minor miracle" that defies the Lieutenant's lack of faith and parallels his eventual redemption. The Lieutenant is also regularly linked with the prodigal Strawberry. The turning point in the film arrives when the Lieutenant investigates the rape of a nun and uses this as a chance to confront his inner demons and perhaps achieve redemption.
The movie was originally rated NC-17, one of the few movies to be rated NC-17 mainly for drug use. The exact descriptors were "Rated NC-17 for sexual violence, strong sexual situations & dialogue, graphic drug use."
Blockbuster, the largest video rental company in the United States, had a policy prohibiting the purchase and rental of NC-17 movies. An R-rated cut was created specifically so that Blockbuster would rent out the film. The R-rated version is five minutes shorter than the original.
Jimmy Page, guitarist of the English rock band Led Zeppelin, discovered the guitar line from the Led Zeppelin song "Kashmir" was used in the Schoolly D song "Signifying Rapper", which is played several times throughout the film. This usage had not been cleared by Schoolly D's record company. A lawsuit forced the removal of the song from the soundtrack on some VHS and all DVD versions of the film. The song was replaced by a recording of an original Ferrara composition called "Bad Lieutenant" recorded on a cassette Walkman and performed live at a late night jam session by Ferrara and Paul Hipp (who also appears as Jesus Christ in the film).
Mark Kermode has mentioned that the movie was praised as "a powerful tale of redemptive Catholicism". Roger Ebert stated that "in the Bad Lieutenant, Keitel has given us one of the great screen performances in recent years"