Who's A Bad Boy Then
The Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) is from the Bronx and has been a cop for a very long time, so long that the version of the law he adheres to is not the official one, as he does drugs, turns a blind eye to some crime, pays for sex with hookers and basically is a dirty cop. But then he becomes involved in the investigation into the case of a nun who is raped by two thugs in a church and who The Lieutenant finds shocked to understand has forgiven the men who so violently attacked her. Meanwhile The Lieutenant is also dealing with a debt which is quickly spiralling out of control as he is on his way to being in deep with a bookie whilst his drug habit has an equally tight grip on his life.
Harvey Keitel quite literally puts it all out there in "Bad Lieutenant" with a fascinating performance of a dirty cop, one of the dirtiest you will ever come across as his drug habit is worse than his gambling habit and if he isn't ignoring small time crooks because he can't be bothered he is having drug fuelled sex sessions which leave him walking around naked. As I said Keitel quite literally puts it all out there and it is a performance which makes the movie as without Keitel's captivating performance what actually happens in "Bad Lieutenant" is not that riveting.
Now I say that "Bad Lieutenant" is not that riveting because we have a dirty cop who is quickly sinking to as low as he can go as his own life is becoming so messed up. Yes it is graphic with a shocking rape scene full of religious imagery but the actual storyline itself, well that is not that great. We don't know enough about the Lieutenant to truly understand him and his motivations, did the pressure of the job change him or was he always dirty. But we do know that a dirty cop like the Lieutenant has only two places to go; redemption or death. I won't tell you which but the combination of lack of depth and familiarity makes "Bad Lieutenant" predictable.
What all the above does is also make "Bad Lieutenant" a movie which seems unsure of what it is. The first half feels like an incomplete character study which thanks to Harvey Keitel comes alive but is lacking the depth which background would have provided. But then during the second half it evolves, no just changes in to a standard corrupt cop movie.
What this all boils down to is that in one way "Bad Lieutenant" is good because Harvey Keitel delivers what is a fantastic performances. But in another way it is disappointing as the actual storyline is not that riveting.