Starring: Harvey Keitel
Rated NC-17 for Sexual Violence, Strong Sexual Situations & Dialogue, Graphic Drug Use
"Bad Lieutenant" is a godawful movie. It's pretentious, self-indulgent and without any apparent purpose. The acting is terrible, the cinematography bland, and the screenplay is worthless trash.
An unnamed lieutenant in New York City is investigating the brutal gang rape of a nun. He is, however, totally unqualified to do the job. He's a boozer, a gambler, and a junkie for anything that will get him high. The film details his investigation on occasion, but mostly it's watching him indulge himself in his vices.
This is what happens when you make a character study of someone whose entire existence can be defined by a single characteristic. The Lieutenant is addicted to just about everything. That's it in terms of character development. That's barely enough for a character that's on screen for a single scene, let alone to focus an entire film around. Even worse, co-writer/director Abel Ferrara does nothing with him until the final ten minutes, which are overblown and ridiculous.
The only performance that matters in this film is Harvey Keitel, since he's present in every scene and no one else has more than token screen time. You'd think that with an actor as talented and reliable as Keitel in the lead, it can't be all that bad, but that would imply that he's actually trying. Keitel is simply awful here. Not that he has much to do other than shoot up and try to win a bit with his bookie. He's never worse than when he's trying to cry. Taylor Lautner was more convincing when he did it in "Abduction."
Abel Ferrara makes the same mistake that Luc Besson did with "La Femme Nikita:" he thinks that the idea is enough to sustain the film. The idea of a drugged out cop working a case has promise, but it's only a jumping off point. Sadly, all we get is a 90 minutes of Harvey Keitel driving around, doing drugs and occasionally shouting at someone.
I don't know about you, but I can think of better things to do with my time. Like doing my laundry with a toothbrush.