Keitel commented about the role, "I wanted to play this part because I have a deep desire to know God. Knowing God isn't just a matter of going to confession and praying. We also know God by confronting evil, and this character gave me the opportunity to descend into the most painful part of myself and learn about the dark places."


This page was created on June 21, 2001
This page was last updated on May 22, 2005

Directed by Abel Ferrara
Writing credits Abel Ferrara Zo Lund

Harvey Keitel .... The Lieutenant
Brian McElroy .... Lieutenant's Son (#1)
Frankie Acciarito .... Lieutenant's Son (#2)
Peggy Gormley .... Lieutenant's Wife
Stella Keitel .... Lieutenant's Daughter
Dana Dee .... Lieutenant's Baby Girl
Victor Argo .... Bet Cop
Paul Calderon .... Cop One
Leonard L. Thomas .... Cop Two
Anthony Ruggiero .... Lite
Vincent Laresca .... JC
Robin Burrows .... Ariane
Victoria Bastel .... Bowtay
G. Elvis Phillips .... Young Cop
Stephen Chen .... Korean Store Owner
Shawn McClean .... Korean Store Hood #1
John Steven Jones .... Korean Store Hood #2
Fernando Vlz .... Julio Joseph
Micheal Cruz .... Paulo
Frankie Thorn .... Nun
Frank Adonis .... Large
Paul Hipp .... Jesus
Lambert Moss .... Veronica
Nicholas De Cegli .... Limelight Guide
Larry Mullane .... Detective Larry
Michael A. Fella .... Detective Mike
Michael N. Ciravolo .... Detective Michael
Zo Lund .... Zoe
Bo Dietl .... Detective Bo
Gene Canfield .... Detective Gene
Heather Bracken .... Nurse
Penelope Allen .... Doctor
Eddie Daniels .... Jersey Girl - Driver
Bianca Bakija .... Jersey Girl - Passenger
Ed Kovens .... Monsignor
Jaime Snchez .... Priest
Minnie Gentry .... Elderly Woman
Iraida Polanco .... Mamacita

Directed by Abel Ferrara
Writing credits Abel Ferrara and Zoe Lund
Produced by Mary Kane (producer), Diana Phillips (line producer), Edward R. Pressman (producer), Randy Sabusawa (co-producer), Patrick Wachsberger (executive producer) and Ronna B. Wallace (executive producer)
Original music by Joe Delia
Cinematography by Ken Kelsch
Film Editing by Anthony Redman

Rated NC-17

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Gambler Thief Junkie Killer Cop

Theatrical release: November 2, 1992.

Shot on location in Manhattan and the Bronx, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey. The film was photographed in a mere 20 days.

The film is based on a song written by director Abel Ferrara called "The Bad Lieutenant" that, in turn, is based on an incident in which a nun was raped in Spanish Harlem in 1982. Bo Dietl, the policeman who caught the real-life rapists, plays a bearded cop in the movie.

The screenplay was cowritten by Zo Tamerlis (under the alias Zo Lund). Tamerlis also plays the lieutenant's drug-shooting mistress and debuted as an actress in Ferrara's 1981 rape-revenge cult hit, MS. 45.

The part of the lieutenant's daughter is played by Harvey Keitel's real daughter, Stella Keitel.

Keitel has a full-frontal nude scene in this film. In 1993 he appeared in Jane Campion's THE PIANO, in which he also had a full-frontal nude scene. This was a highly succesful period of Keitel's career, thanks to these two critically praised films and RESERVOIR DOGS. Around this time the press began to pay homage to his fearlessly "naked" style of acting.

Keitel commented about the role, "I wanted to play this part because I have a deep desire to know God. Knowing God isn't just a matter of going to confession and praying. We also know God by confronting evil, and this character gave me the opportunity to descend into the most painful part of myself and learn about the dark places."

Director Abel Ferrara says of his star: "Harvey Keitel is a national treasure. His performance is just awesome." Rap star Schoolly D's "Signifying Rapper" originally appeared on the soundtrack in the film but was later removed for video releases after legal disputes resulting from Schoolly's unauthorized use of a Led Zeppelin sample in the song.

There are R and unrated versions of this film available, with the unrated version being substantially more powerful and disturbing.

Review by

Film Reviewer
Simon graduated from Trinity Western University where he studied film under prolific screenwriter Ned Vankevich. He prefers independent and lower-budget films.

Click to enlargeOne of the most spiritually powerful films I've ever seen is The Bad Lieutenant. It is also one of the most disturbing. This may seem like a paradox to some Christians: a film that is equally powerful and disturbing-most people, Christians and non-Christians alike, separate the two: a film is usually either powerful or disturbing. Rarely do these attributes coexist.
Click to enlargeHarvey Keitel's character in The Bad Lieutenant may be one of the most grotesque characters ever seen on screen-he's a compulsive gambler, drug addict, absent father and husband, and he's a dirty cop too. So dirty that in one unsettling scene he pulls over two young girls on a traffic violation-they are out in daddy's car and will do anything to avoid being caught-and verbally rapes them. But it is clear that he lives a tortured life, uncomfortable even with himself; he is desperate for salvation but doesn't believe someone as immoral as him can ever receive grace.

Click to enlargeBut when a nun is raped and forgives her rapists-she knows the two young men but won't give up their names because she has forgiven them-Click to enlargeHarvey Keitel's character realizes that perhaps there is hope of salvation for someone like himself-if the nun is capable of forgiving her rapists, surely God can forgive someone like him. During the film's climax he has a vision of Christ at the altar of the nun's church. He sobs and begs for forgiveness: "I tried to do the right thing, but I'm so f*cking weak!" He then crawls over to Jesus and kisses his feet.

Roger Ebert has this to say about The Bad Lieutenant: "The film has the NC-17 rating, for adults only, and that is appropriate. But it is not a 'dirty movie,' and in fact takes spirituality and morality more seriously than most films do."

Click to enlargeDISCONNECTED
The Lieutenant is a father and has a family. But, he is distant even when he takes his sons to Catholic school.
Click to enlargeDRUG ABUSER
The minute he has dropped off the boys, he snorts coke in his car. Notice the cross hanging from the rear view mirror. The film continually contrasts the profane to the sacred.
Click to enlargeALCOHOLIC
Drinking and driving while on the job. He has accumulated a massive debt betting on baseball. The Lieutenant's world is falling apart. He is has become a very grotesque and evil person.
Click to enlargeSORTED LIFE
The Lieutenant does copious amounts of drugs, cavorts with prostitutes, and uses his status to take advantage of teenage girls. The Lieutenant is ruining his body -his personal temple.
Click to enlargeRUINED TEMPLE
Then something happens. A church is desecrated by some very evil young men. There is a parallel here to the way the Lieutenant has ravaged his own body.

The young thugs rape a nun. This is parallel to the way The Lieutenant takes advantage of young women he pulls over for citations.

The screams of the nun are contrasted to the screams of Jesus on the cross. The film connects the painful death of Jesus to the suffering of the nun. A fabulous contrast, in my view.
The Lieutenant is called to investigate the crime. Somehow he identifies with the devastation in the church. He throws himself into the midst of the chaotic mess next to the defiled Virgin Mary statue.
The Lieutenant cannot understand how the nun could possibly forgive her attackers. Similarly, The Lieutenant cannot understand how God could forgive him.
Click to enlargeJESUS TAKES SIN AWAY
The nun responds by saying, "Talk to Jesus. Pray. You believe in God don't you? Jesus Christ died for your sins."
Click to enlargeREALIZATION
Left on his own in the church, the Lieutenant realizes that if the nun can forgive the young men who ravaged her, then God must be able to forgive him too.
Click to enlargeTHE PRESENCE OF GOD
The Lieutenant cries out to God in confession of sin, pleading for God's help. Suddenly Jesus appears.
The Lieutenant stretches out his arms toward Jesus to receive forgiveness.

The Lieutenant now crawls toward Jesus on his knees in an act of full confession and acceptance.

Click to enlargeTHE HOLY KISS
The Lieutenant kisses the nail pierced feet of Jesus.
Editorial Commentary
by Simon S. Remark
Many Christians believe films of this nature are inherently evil. Many Christians base their opinions of a film's morality on the number of curse words or sex scenes, thus ruling out numerous films with compelling Christian messages. For instance, many Christians were appalled with Kevin Smith's Dogma, calling it blasphemous and sacrilegious, yet the film shows God as an entity very concerned with creation, among other things. In his review of Dogma, David Bruce mentions, "Oh, by the way, Kevin Smith is right. God does care about humans. And God is very involved in the human condition. God is ever ready to love and care for you."
Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy also has an important Christian message. The film explores the complexities, and intricacies of a relationship between a straight male and a lesbian female who become intimate. And while many Christians might view the content and dialogue of the film as offensive, Chasing Amy has an intrinsically Christian theme: "it's not who you love, it's how you love." Holden, the film's protagonist, pushes his girlfriend, Alyssa, away because of her promiscuous past. But he learns, after a profound monologue from Silent Bob (director Kevin Smith), the importance of grace and forgiveness-accepting people for who they are, no matter what they've done in the past, and loving them unconditionally.
Another film that wonderfully captures this theme is Leaving Las Vegas. In this film, Nicholas Cage's character loses his wife and job and sets out to drink himself to death-he's not sure if he drinks because his wife left him, or his wife left him because he drinks. In Las Vegas he falls in love with a prostitute: she accepts him for who he is, he accepts her for who she is. They love each other unconditionally. Roger Ebert comments, "Oh, this movie is so sad! It is sad not because of the tragic lives of its characters, but because of their goodness and their charity. What moves me the most in movies is not when something bad happens, but when characters act unselfishly."
Even Pulp Fiction has spiritual implications. Jules, a scripture spouting hit-man, played by Samuel L. Jackson, decides to live a Godly life after what he believes is a miracle-he's shot at numerous times, but all the bullets just barely miss him. At the end of a hectic, bizarre day he walks away from his former life and becomes a new man-great character arc!
Here's an example, be it extreme, of the type of attitude that many Christians have toward certain films that, in my opinion, is antithetical to Christianity. Last year P. T. Anderson released a spiritually rich film, Magnolia-a film dealing with grace, forgiveness and reconciliation. The characters in Magnolia show the human condition in its truest form: broken. Yet this is what one Christian had to say: "'vile'... 'Magnolia' was without a doubt, the most vile, horrific and offensive movie I have ever seen! I cannot comprehend how anyone could possibly have one good thing to say about this movie. This is just the type of vulgarity our heavenly Father wants us to have no part of. I don't care how much Hollywood or others try to talk around it by talking about the acting, or the filmmaking. Trash is trash. Jesus does not need or want to use filth to show us how to forgive. He is love and speaks with love and kindness not vileness and vulgarity. "Magnolia" is the worst movie I have ever had the misfortune to see."
Are these films the type of vulgarity God wants us to have no part of? Well, a better question might be: are the characters in these films the type of people God wants us to have a part of? Yes, I believe so. Do I think that all the films I used as examples are appropriate for everyone? No I don't. But, at the same time, I don't believe Christians should claim that such films are inappropriate for ALL Christians; these films are not evil. They provide insight into the human condition. All of the aforementioned films and characters point to a merciful God: Harvey Keitel's character in The Bad Lieutenant is grotesque, yet Christ has mercy on him; the drunk and the prostitute in Leaving Las Vegas are coarse, yet they are wonderful examples of God's unconditional love and acceptance; the characters in Magnolia are flawed, but we realize in the end that God is at work in all of their lives. The list goes on and on. Perhaps more Christians should look at what films have to say about the nature of humans and our culture, instead of quickly condemning them because they are full of cursing, or sex. Because it is often the harshest films that have the most powerful Christian messages.

Subject: Bad_Lieutenant
Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001
From: Dave

Hi Friends, I find comments by Simon S. Remark in to be intereting. However, I do not agree completely with his perspective on the movies that he listed.

I did not like DOGMA at all because of the complete misconception of Kevin Smith's notion about Christianity. It has hints of Catholicism (i.e. Linda Fiorentino's baptizing the water to make it holy.) It fails because it did not demonstrate a true knowledge of Christianity. For example, Angels cannot be killed by bullets, or have their wings cliped. They can never become human - that's why they are angels. The whole bit about Alan Rickman's character trying to save Jesus from the cross is beyond comprehension. It's as if Smith is saying Christ never needed to be crucified. And even if "Kevin Smith is right. God does care about humans. And God is very involved in the human condition. God is ever ready to love and care for you," it's not strong enough to support the movie. God is not Alanis Morrisett wearing shorts and doing hand stands.

There has to be a reverence for God. It is lacking in Dogma. God is not a fool. I felt that he is portrayed as one in this movie.

As for CHASING AMY, as Simon Remark said, "accepting people for who they are, no matter what they've done in the past, and loving them unconditionally," I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement. But, let me ask a question, would God accept Amy as the way she is, a lesbian? Even if she is straight, would God accept her promiscuity? There is a fine line between what we accept and what God accepts. God does not and never will accept homosexuality. He never has and he never will. He did not create mankind to be homosexuals, bi-sexuals, or overtly sexual. It's true that we are sexual beings, but only within the confines of marriage. Yes, we may accept the fact that Amy (or anybody we know) is a homosexual. But, we have a duty to try to change her orientation. This does not mean that we don't love her unconditionally. We should love Amy as God would have love her. But, to not tell her the truth according to the Bible is not love. Telling her the truth and what God expects, a monogamous heterosexual relationship, IS love.

As for LEAVING LAS VEGAS, there's got to be more than "she accepts him for who he is, he accepts her for who she is. They love each other unconditionally." Acceptance of an individual's self destruction is destruction in itself. What would you say if your daughter or mother becomes a prostitute and your father or brother tells you that he wants to drink himself to death. Would you say, "well, good for you! You just be your own self and get herpes and AIDS and go ahead and drink yourself to death!" It would be absurd for any individual to truly be so inhumane and watch the other individual destroy themselves. This is not love. Love is to tell the other individual that we care enough about them to want to help them. If they refuse, then we stay back and let them come to their natural course. But, we should never accept it.

As for MAGNOLIA, I would agree that there are a lot of points that the filmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson, was trying to make. The most important point that I see is that every character in this movie is trying to come to grips with him or herself about their situation. They all seem to want to do the right thing, to be good and to be truly accepted and be loved. Even though they are all intrinsically flawed, they were all seeking redemption. It was as if they had to do something before they can go on with their lives. I like that theme. It is, I believe, very Christian.

I have not seen BAD LIEUTANENT yet. But, from what I have read, I believe that it may be one of the best movie for a Christian. Seeing sin at its "finest" may be hard. But, we have to always ask ourselves one question: are we better than the bad lieutenant? Not according to Christ we are not. I am planning to see it. I will let you know what I think about it. Thanks for reading.
God Bless, Dave

Bad Lieutenant © 2001 Aries Films, Live Distributing, Bad Lt Productions. All Rights Reserved.