Just how bad is the Bad Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel)? He snorts coke (and God knows what else), smokes crack and engages in threesomes with fellow junkies, all after dropping off his kids at Catholic school; from there, he loses tens of thousands of dollars betting on the Dodgers (who are on an epic losing streak against the Mets), works a grift with drug dealers and forces two girls he’s pulled over to simulate oral sex while he masturbates. This guy’s just one misstep away from a complete mental and emotional breakdown that will have him screaming obscenities at Jesus Christ himself in a church; his only chance at getting his head above water is his current investigation into the rape of a nun (Frankie Thorn), who’s since forgiven her attackers and tries to convince the Lieutenant to do the same. Abel Ferrara’s down and dirty meditation on guilt, sin and redemption is, obviously, all sorts of NC-17 gritty, with Keitel giving the performance of a lifetime as a man wrestling with so many demons, it’s a miracle he can even physically get up in the morning. An often difficult film to watch, but a fascinating one; this could be seen as the middle part of Ferrara’s unofficial trilogy about lost New York souls in the ’90s, preceded by King of New York (1990) and followed by The Addiction (1995).
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