April 2, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Bad Lieutenant

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Bad Lieutenant

Today's movie: Bad Lieutenant, 1992 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because all the hype last year over Werner Herzog's similarly titled but unrelated Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans reminded me that I still had never seen the 1992 original by underground veteran Abel Ferrara, and that I had been meaning to for years because of its infamous reputation.

The reality: Hole. Lee. Sh-t! Well, you should definitely believe all the things you've heard about this notorious film; because for those who don't know, this movie is essentially a two-hour character study of a dirty cop, and Ferrara absolutely pulls no punches when it comes to exactly what kind of filth a psychotic drug addict can get away with when handed a badge and the official right to carry a gun. And that's what makes Harvey Keitel's performance here so revelatory and unnerving, even more astounding when you realize that he was only brought on three weeks before shooting began, after the original star Christopher Walken pulled out at the last minute; because between his natural creepiness, his dedication to the immersive Method school of acting, and the no-holds-barred nature of the script itself, this turns out to be one of the edgiest and most uncomfortable movies made in the last twenty years, a portrait of what happens when unchecked authority collides with the excesses of a post-Cold-War superpower America. And that of course is what makes its controversial ending so thought-provoking as well, because Ferrara ultimately allows his unnamed bad cop to gain a bit of redemption by the end of his tale, even if it takes on a form that will sicken and anger many audience members; and that leads into a complex conversation about what exactly "redemption" is in the first place and who exactly deserves it, one of the many issues central to Catholicism that this movie tackles head-on. It's an unforgettable film, in that literally you will never be able to forget some of the more ridiculously outrageous scenes contained within (just the shot of Keitel shooting out his car stereo while snorting coke and screaming racial epitaphs is worth the rental price alone), and it comes highly recommended to fans of noirs and other antihero stories.

Strangest piece of trivia: Of the two teenaged girls featured in this movie's most well-known scene (in which Keitel pulls over two underaged drivers and, in order to avoid arrest, forces them to disrobe and make sex faces while he jerks off onto them), one was Keitel's real-life live-in nanny. Talk about dedication to a role.

Worth your time? Yes, but only for existing fans of dark movies

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:51 PM, April 2, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |