Sep 11, 2013

Bad Lieutenant (1992)




Although I seriously doubt it was the director’s intention, Bad Lieutenant (1992) directed by McWop pornographer-turned-filmmaker Abel Ferrara (The Driller Killer, King of New York)—for better or worse—has to be one of the most hilarious and degenerate crime dramas ever made as a sort of aesthetically and thematically ‘copsploitation’ flick of the crude and embarrassingly Catholic sort. Co-penned by tragic model/actress Zoë Tamerlis Lund (Special Effects, Exquisite Corpses) who previously starred in Ferrara’s raunchy rape and revenge flick Ms. 45 (1981) aka Angel of Vengeance and who died at the rather premature age of 37 in 1999 after suffering from a heart attack caused by too much cocaine, Bad Lieutenant is a compulsively Catholic-guilt-ridden corrupt cop flick starring tiny yet tough Hebrew Harvey Keitel about a perverted police detective with more than one unhealthy addiction who attempts to seek redemption after two superlatively swarthy untermensch thugs brutally rape a nun, including with a crucifix The Exorcist-style. By no means a ‘feel-good’ nor uplifting flick, Bad Lieutenant is the kind of cinematic work that real-life nightmares are made as a work written and directed by damned drug addicts of the decidedly dispirited and uniquely unsentimental sort who seem to have more faith in self-destructive nihilism than the Virgin Mary. A work of stylishly sleazy maniac melodrama that works best as a brazen black comedy and was blessed with a NC-17 rating upon its release, Bad Lieutenant features an intemperate and drug-addled cop who masturbates on the street, gambles his money and dignity away, snorts coke and shoots heroin, engages in seedy motel threesomes, and robs robbers and crime scenes, all the while trying to keep up the absurd semblance of being a serious cop and Catholic family man and falling further and further into an existential hell as god’s most lonely lunatic lieutenant. Arguably the greatest and certainly one of the most degenerate films directed by Abel Ferrara, Bad Lieutenant is indisputable proof the Italian Renaissance man Pier Paolo Pasolini (Mamma Roma, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom), whose life the American auteur is planning to depict in an upcoming biopic, is not the only filmmaker who had a somewhat nasty knack for corrupting Catholic themes in curious celluloid form. 



 During the beginning of Bad Lieutenant, one might assume that anti-hero ‘The Lieutenant’ (Harvey Keitel) is just another agitated, overworked, and patently pessimistic cop as he has a reasonably nice suburban home, listens to sportscasters on the radio, and drives his two young sons to Catholic school, but in reality, this completely corrupt officer of the law lives a second life as a seemingly psychopathic criminal whose addiction to sex, drugs, and gambling only grows larger with each passing day and who is undoubtedly on an unholy path to self-destruction and inevitable annihilation. After being assigned to investigate a grizzly double homicide, the Lieutenant chases down a couple drug dealers and meets one of them in a dark alleyway, where he gives the racially dubious pusher a bag of drugs to sell and proceeds to smoke some of the street crack himself. Later that night, the Lieutenant gets drunk and engages in a less than thrilling threesome with two ladies who would probably be described as ‘damaged goods’ and crusty crack whores. Meanwhile, a redheaded virgin Nun (Frankie Thorn) of the uncommonly voluptuous sort is raped by two ugly mongrel teenagers with a crucifix and the Lieutenant is assigned to the investigation and watches voyeuristically when the defiled holy woman is given a rape test at a hospital following the odious ordeal. In her own deluded mind, the Nun believes that she has been bequeathed with the grace of god and holds no animosity towards the rapists, or so she tells the Lieutenant, who makes it his mission to hunt down and serve justice to the sick defilers. The next day while lounging with his young daughters at home, the Lieutenant learns via TV that he has just lost a ton of cash via a bet regarding a National League Championship Series game between the Mets and the Dodgers he gambled on, but he cannot afford to pay it so it decides to bring the wager up to $30,000 for an upcoming game, which he does not even have enough cash to pay for. While drinking and driving, the Lieutenant learns he lost a second bet and shoots out his car stereo. Assumedly to recoup lost funds, the LT attempts to steal a kilo from a car at a crime scene, but he is so wasted that his motor skills fail him and he accidentally drops the stash in a ditch right in front of his cop coworkers, but manages to weasel his way out of the situation by telling them to collect the drugs as evidence. At the First Communion of one of his children, the Lieutenant doubles the wager to $60,000 because, as he tells his cop friend who acts as a middleman for his bets, the Mets cannot continue to win because apparently no baseball team has ever come back from three straight losses to win a series. On his way home, the Lieutenant pulls over two underage girls without drivers licenses and forces them to show their naughty bits while he jerks off while standing in the middle of the street. Indeed, if anyone is ‘ridin’ dirty,’ it is the Bad Lieutenant. 



 After losing another gamble, the Lieutenant, who preposterously professes to find a kindred spirit of sorts in Darryl Strawberry and still adamantly believes the Mets cannot win the series, attempts to double his wager again to the hefty sum of $120,000, which his friend advises him against as the bookie will most likely murder him if he fails to pay. While extremely high and drunk, the Lieutenant wanders into a Catholic church, where he finds the Nun rape victim and offers to kill the two sexually pillagers for her, but she continues to proclaim she has forgiven the brown beasts. Not long after, the Lieutenant hallucinates and sees a vision of bloody Jesus Christ at the church and proceeds to throw curse words, including “fuck” and “rat-fuck,” at the imaginary son of God, but eventually breaks down, confessing his guilt and proclaims he is too weak to do the right thing and asks for forgiveness. When he goes to kiss Christ’s feet, he finally realizes it is just a random old black woman holding a gold chalice who tells the corrupt cop that the two nun rapists, whose names are apparently Julio and Paulo and live right across the street from the church, pawned the holy object at her husband’s store. Using the new lead, the Lieutenant manages to track down the two racially indiscernible Hispanic rapists, who live like dirty animals in a pigsty. Instead of booking the rapists at Port Authority or killing them on the site, the Lieutenant offers them the seemingly improbable chance of redemption by giving them $30,000 he earned from selling ‘evidence’ (aka cocaine) and forcing them to leave on a bus heading out of town, telling them never to come back to New York City. Unfortunately, the bad Lieutenant is not afforded the same opportunity as someone drops by his car and yells “Hey, cop!” and unloads a couple bullets on the corrupt cop, thereupon killing him in the process. 



Despite being a totally thrilling work with a number of tragicomedic and sometimes cruel twists, Bad Lieutenant fails to be as rewarding as Werner Herzog’s non-sequel The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (2009), even if Harvey Keitel gave a much superior performance. Not surprisingly, Abel Ferrara was not too happy upon initially hearing about the pseudo-sequel to his iconic cult flick, stating regarding those involved with The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, “As far as remakes go ... I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they're all in the same streetcar, and it blows up,” which Herzog later richly retorted to with, ” I've never seen a film by him [Ferrara]. I have no idea who he is.” Additionally, the homoerotic Italian giallo Copkiller (1983) aka Copkiller (l'assassino dei poliziotti) aka Corrupt Lieutenant aka Bad Cop Chronicles #2: Corrupt—a work directed by commie Guido auteur Roberto Faenza also starring Keitel, alongside The Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon in his sole film role, that is a sort of prototype for Bad Lieutenant in its depiction of a degenerate police officer—is, at least in my opinion, a superior work to Abel Ferrara’s fucked catholic-sploitation cop flick. Of course, all three of these corrupt cop cult flicks make for great celluloid companion pieces to one another, even if Bad Lieutenant is the only one of the films to have the grand distinction of featuring Harvey Keitel totally naked with his kosher chode in full view as the actor suffers a mental meltdown of the embarrassingly (both for the viewer and the actor) humorous variety. Of course, next to the malignant, if not oftentimes accidentally merry, macho melancholy of Bad Lieutenant, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans and Copkiller seem too contrived and stylized to dispirit the viewer as much as Ferrara’s flick. Like a number of Ferrara’s films, Bad Lieutenant is too professionally directed and thematically serious to be a mere exploitation film, yet it is also the sort of work that would prove to be a major discomfort to a good portion of American mainstream filmgoers. Named by fellow wop NYC filmmaker Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) as the fifth best film of the 1990s, Bad Lieutenant acts as a sort of ‘spiritual sequel’ and more nihilistic update of Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967) in its depiction of an ostensibly Italian-American character played by Harvey Keitel whose anti-sex Catholic guilt makes him react rather ridiculously to the fact a woman is raped.  As someone who was not brought up Catholic, it is hard for me to relate to the subversive themes of Bad Lieutenant, but if one thing is for sure, I think the eponymous anti-hero played by Keitel should not have given into Christ's cuckolding word because, after all, any down-and-out druggie can fall for the con of religion.  Of course, most people do not watch a film like Bad Lieutenant for its Catholic themes, but to see Harvey Keitel cry and yell like an infant on meth while buck naked and yelling stuff at the crucified Christ like, ”Mutt! You got something that you want to say to me? You fuck! You ratfuck, you ratfuck! Here's your... What? Say something, I know you're just standing there. What am I gonna do? You gotta say something! Something! You fuck, you fucking stand there and you want me to do every fucking thing! Where were you? Where the fuck were you? Where were you? Where the hell were you?” Of course, Christ was nowhere to be found when little Harvey got blown away by a bunch of bullets, but that is the small price one pays for faith, or at least in the wanton and wicked wack-job world of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, a sort of anti-Christ's take on American proletarian Catholicism.



-Ty E

8 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Cheers Ty E, thats put me off wanking for another 3 or 4 days, although i did like the image of the gorgeous naked bird, why couldn`t ALL the pictures have been of gorgeous naked birds (even ones who weren`t in the movie ! ! !), i hate having my wank spoilt by anything and you seem to be doing that on purpose lately, you bloody rotten sod.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I love the scene in this movie where he gets that gorgeous bird in the car to show her bum, that scene is an excellent masturbation aid.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

What Herzog said about Ferrara was, quite simply, THE most glorious insult that any film-maker could possibly unlease on another, well done Werner my old mate.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Harvey Keitel is such a bloody load of old rubbish, i respect his rampaging heterosexuality obviously but i dont respect anything else about him at all.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I`ve been watching a few interveiws with Werner Herzog on Youtube and what i like most about the geezer is the way he positively exudes rampaging heterosexuality, i wish Fassbinder could`ve been the same.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I think Abel Ferrara is heterosexual so i respect him for that but his films are all unwatchable garbage, with the possible exception of "Body Snatchers" (1993) his one foray into the ultra girl-stream (as it were).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Keitels wife is 22 years younger than him, the lucky bastard.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

An interesting choice for the 12th anniversary of 9/11.