Bad Lieutenant (1992) - Plot Summary Poster


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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 and redemption.

  • 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.

  • In New York, a corrupt and abusive NYPD Lieutenant is addicted in drugs and gambling and has a great debt with a shark. He takes advantage of his authority to make deals with drug dealers and criminals to get drugs and dirty money and his bookmaker advises him that he owes money to dangerous people. When a nun is brutally raped by two youngsters, the Lieutenant chases the criminals but the nun tells him that she had forgiven the punks. The Lieutenant is affected by her religious principles and asks Jesus to help him.

  • A police lieutenant has gone bad: his gambling addiction has left him owing heaps of money to some shady characters, he is severely drug-addicted and he is not above stealing drugs from evidence or not returning stolen cash to victims of robberies. Then he investigates a case that makes him think about his attitude and beliefs.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In New York City, "Lieutenant", also known as "LT" (Harvey Keitel) drives his two young sons from their house to their Catholic elementary school in the Bronx, and instructs them to curse at their Aunt Wendy, who "hogged" the bathroom for over one hour and made them late. Afterward, he snorts cocaine before reporting to the scene of a double-murder of two women inside their automobile. Lieutenant takes bets from his colleagues on an upcoming baseball playoff series between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and places a large bet for himself.

    Sometime later, the Lieutenant visits a drug dealer who owes him money, and takes some of his cocaine until the man can pay his debt. At night, Lieutenant goes to another apartment where he does drugs and has sex with two women named Adriane and Bowtay. Next, LT goes to a liquor store, where an officer from his precinct is trying to settle a dispute between the store owner and two young black men he claims stole money from his register. Lieutenant instructs the officer to take the store owner to the station to write a report. When left alone, he orders the young men to return the stolen money, which he keeps, and allows them to leave without being arrested.

    Afterward, Lieutenant visits another woman, named Zoe, and uses more drugs with her by smoking heroin. Meanwhile, at a Catholic church in Spanish Harlem, two men rape a nun on the altar. When Lieutenant learns of the crime, he insults the Catholic Church, although he claims to be a Catholic himself. He is more concerned with the bets his colleagues have made with him, and encourages them to place additional bets instead of taking their winnings. Sometime later, Lieutenant goes to the hospital where the nun is being examined. He watches her through the door, but leaves without speaking to her.

    Later that night, he pulls over two young girls driving with a broken taillight. When they admit to stealing their father's automobile and driving without a license, Lieutenant sexually harasses them. Threatening arrest, he orders one girl to lift her skirt, and demands the other simulate oral sex, while he stands outside their vehicle and masturbates. He zips up his pants and without a further word gets in his automobile and drives away.

    Strung out on drugs, the Lieutenant goes to the church where the rape occurred, but leaves when he finds fellow detectives conducting their investigation. As the sun comes up, Lieutenant snorts more cocaine and drinks from a flask as he drives around and listens to a baseball game on the radio. When the Mets lose, he becomes furious and shoots the radio, then places a flashing light on top of his car and turns on the siren as a distraction. He drives erratically, cursing the losing team.

    The Lieutenant attends a church where his daughter takes her first communion, and is approached by his bookie, asking for $30,000 he owes in gambling debts. However, Lieutenant refuses to pay, insisting on doubling his wager on the next game. Sometime later, Lieutenant overhears the nun telling her priest that she knows the young men who assaulted her, but refuses to name them, as they are "good boys" who attend Catholic school, and she feels sympathy for them. The Lieutenant watches the next baseball game at a bar, and his gambling debt skyrockets when the Mets lose again.

    Meanwhile, the Nun gives a public statement about her ordeal but then shocks the press when she says that she will not press charges against the two thugs who broke in and raped her and stole from the church because of her Catholic belief in God and His capacity for forgiveness. She tells the press that she has forgiven the men who raped her. Angered by the Nun's refusal to cooperate with the investigation, the New York Archbishop and the Police Commissioner announce a $50,000 reward to the person or group who finds and captures the two men who raped the Nun. The Lieutenant hears about the reward and realizes it would solve most of his debt problems.

    The Lieutenant goes to a disco and does more drugs, then insists that his bookie place a $120,000 bet for him on the next playoff game. Lieutenant continues his bender, and goes to the home of a drug dealer who owes him money. The young man repays his $30,000 debt, and worries about the detective's state of mind. Lieutenant carries the box of cash to his vehicle with his gun drawn. Visiting his lover, Zoe, once again he shoots up heroin and hallucinates seeing Jesus Christ nailed to the cross.

    Sometime later, the Lieutenant visits the Nun at the church, but when he promises her justice if she names her assailants, she tells him she has already forgiven the young men. When he warns that the perpetrators could rape other nuns, she instructs Lieutenant to pray on the matter. After she leaves, Lieutenant falls to the church floor and wails. He sees Jesus Christ standing before him, curses God, and throws a rosary at the hallucination. Lieutenant laments his life, accusing God of abandoning him. Through screams and tears, he apologizes for his many sins, and begs God for forgiveness. When the illusion disappears, Lieutenant finds himself kissing the feet of an old black woman. He leaves the church with her where she tells him who raped the nun from a brass chalet. The woman says that on the previous day, two Hispanic youths came into the pawn shop where her husband works and attempted to pawn a chalet for cash, which the woman recognized as being from the very same church because she is a regular attendee. The elderly black woman takes the Lieutenant down the street and points out the apartment building where the two thugs reside since they also gave their address when they pawned the stolen items from the church.

    The Lieutenant goes to a drug house down the street from the church to arrest the two Hispanics who raped the Nun. Handcuffing the youths, he holds them at gunpoint and smokes "crack" with them, while watching the baseball game on television. The Mets finally win, but Lieutenant does not react to the good news. He escorts the youths to Port Authority Bus Terminal, cursing them along the way. He forces them to board a bus and never return, and gives them his box with the $30,000 and tells the two punks that he forgives them for raping the Nun. As the bus pulls away, Lieutenant lets out a wail, and walks away in tears.

    The Lieutenant drives aimlessly around the city in the middle of the day, and after parking his unmarked vehicle in front of Penn Station, a man drives by, shouts "Hey, Cop!!" and shoots him. The car with the mob flunky speeds away as a crowd gathers around the Lieutenant's parked car, with the dead Lieutenant still inside.

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