Neglected Virtues: Bad Lieutenant (1992)
Pages: 2film, drugs, sex
Publication date: 16/02/2018
Abel Ferrara is the most ferocious and controversial of contemporary American film directors. Harvey Keitel is the most daring and provocative of contemporary American film actors. Their combination in Bad Lieutenant makes for one of the most unforgettably disturbing, raw and intense film experiences ever to emerge from mainstream American cinema: hence, or despite, its consignment to the dreaded NC-17 ratings bin, as have been most Ferrara films. Bad Lieutenant remains Ferrara’s pinnacle achievement and is Keitel’s riskiest work in sexual aberration since the classic 1970s film Fingers for director James Toback. Keitel’s association with director Martin Scorsese and New York City is well known and often alluded to by Ferrara, but with this film Ferrara proved himself as dynamic a New York filmmaker as Scorsese, although his films often flirt with so-called exploitation terrain a little too uncomfortably for many mainstream critics. Thus, it was no surprise that Bad Lieutenant created something of a critical furor when it was first released, as did Keitel’s involvement in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs around the same time. Although many praised Bad Lieutenant’s daring characterization, there were just as many who decried the film’s sly treatment of aberrant sexuality and its uncomfortable link to Catholicism and ideas of blasphemy and religious psychosis.
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