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Bad Lieutenant (1992)

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While investigating a young nun's rape, a corrupt New York City police detective, with a serious drug and gambling addiction, tries to change his ways and find forgiveness.



(as Zoe Lund),
2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Beat Cop
Cop #1 (as Paul Calderone)
Cop #2 (as Leonard Thomas)
Robin Burrows ...
The Nun
Victoria Bastel ...
Brian McElroy ...
Frankie Acciarito ...
Lieutenant's Wife
Lieutenant's Daughter
Dana Dee ...
Lieutenant's Baby Girl
Anthony Ruggiero ...


A police Lieutenant goes about his daily tasks of investigating homicides, but is more interested in pursuing his vices. He has accumulated a massive debt betting on baseball, and he keeps doubling to try to recover. His bookies are beginning to get agitated. The Lieutenant does copious amounts of drugs, cavorts with prostitutes, and uses his status to take advantage of teenage girls. While investigating a nun's rape, he begins to reflect on his lifestyle. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Gambler. Thief. Junkie. Killer. Cop.


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated NC-17 for sexual violence, strong sexual situations & dialogue, graphic drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

17 December 1992 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

Teniente corrupto  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)


$2,000,022 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (R-rated)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The song Pledging My Love by Johnny Ace is in Bad Lieutenant (1992), starring Harvey Keitel. This song is also in Mean Streets (1973). Keitel also stars in this film. See more »


When Daryl Strawberry hits home run, we see the scoreboard. The score clearly does not match what the announcer then says it is. See more »


The Lieutenant: If you think you're not getting on that bus, man, you're dead wrong. Now get on that fucking bus, 'cause your life ain't worth shit in this town!
See more »


Referenced in Californication: Mr. Bad Example (2009) See more »


Written by Cliff Friend (as C. Friend) and Charles Tobias
Published by Warner Bros. Inc & Tobias
Performed by Peter Yellen & Greg Hollister
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Deep, dark, and disturbing--but contains a surprisingly spiritual theme. ***1/2 (out of four)
19 September 2001 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

BAD LIEUTENANT / (1992) ***1/2 (out of four)

By Blake French:

Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" could be a solid tale of spiritual redemption if not for the pervasive material through which the film demonstrates its immorality. It contrasts the most disturbing, obscene human behavior with compassion and forgiveness, but the extreme nature of the content and the film's insistence on it's portrayal swindles the spiritual impact. For once a movie deserves the notorious NC-17 rating-the Motion Picture Association of America's most restrictive emblem placed on movies submitted for a rating-but the story contains a message that's more humble and spiritual than most inoffensive productions about spirituality.

These filmmakers may or may not realize the potential religious impact their product is capable of achieving. It's a very religious film; churches could use this to demonstrate the power of forgiveness and the strength of God's love. Unfortunately many audiences will misinterpret the graphic adult content and strong language as excessively dirty-but this is not a dirty movie. The content is necessary for the exceptional contrast to work. It displays the goodness in people through their wrong doings. Though I still wouldn't recommend gathering the kids around to watch this movie.

Harvey Keitel plays a character whom the movie calls only "Bad Lieutenant." He's at a stage in his life when human characteristics no longer matter. Filled with fury, need, and depression, his temporary remedies-sex, drugs, and gambling-no longer fulfill his hunger for pleasure. But his family doesn't care anymore. He drops his kids off for school, does bad things during the day, and comes home to collapse on the couch at night. This character does not imagine himself as anything but bad. He interrupts a grocery store robbery only to let the thieves go on a bribe. He buys drugs from drug dealers in exchange for their immunity. He stops a pair of young women in a car only to blackmail them into an unpleasant form of verbal rape.

The story takes a twist. Several low lives brutally rape a young nun. The nun, who knows her rapists, refuses to reveal their identities because she forgives them for their crime. The bad lieutenant cannot believe a victim can forgive such an atrocity. If this woman can forgive her debtors, could anyone forgive his sins as well?

Whether the bad lieutenant turns his life around I will leave you to discover. But this idea might be a side issue in the plot. "Bad Lieutenant" displays more of an interest in the dirty lifestyle of the title character than in his decision to seek forgiveness for his sins. Only during the final minutes does Keitel's character realize his choices. Surprisingly, however, the film's ending takes the easy way out in a complete refusal to look redemption in the eye. This ending blends in with the events because of stark, honest realism, but we never comprehend the character's intentions for the future.

Dark and cringe-inducing, "Bad Lieutenant" is not a fun movie to watch and don't expect to hold your popcorn down if you walk in unprepared. Abel Ferrara and Zoe Lund wrote the script looking into deep, private crevices of the human soul. They travel to places many people will find extremely uncomfortable. It's a harrowing character study portrayed through an unreserved, courageous performance. Harvey Keitel takes a huge risk here-most actors would not want such a character to follow their public image. But Keitel does not hesitate to characterize the bad lieutenant without compromise, mercy, or restraint.

Hats off to you, Harvey.

32 of 44 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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