No one can kill me, I am blessed: bad lieutenant Abel Ferrara is thirty

(From left) Frankie Thorne and Harvey Keitel in Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant.

(From left) Frankie Thorne and Harvey Keitel at Abel Ferrara’s home bad lieutenant.
picture: Lionsgate

Rosary beads hang from the rear-view mirror of his Victorian crown. A radio call bounces back into the parked car. Outside, swarms of children rush to St. Clair’s School of Assisi. 1992 Abel Ferrara Classic bad lieutenant, which will be celebrating its 30th birthday this month, opens with this early morning palette. At its center is a hurricane of lead character, the Lieutenant, or LT, played by Harvey Keitel, who brings equal parts spiritual longing and lechery to the role. He just dropped his kids off but they were barely out the door before he shoveled cocaine up his nose. This opening perfectly distills despair at the heart of Ferrara’s meditation on faith and human folly. What we learn right away: LT’s never-ending appetite for vice belies everything good around him.

Propelled by a mixture of illegal drugs and near-paranormal pain that seems to drive all his actions, LT, a corrupt New York cop, is sleepwalking from one atrocity to the next. He chases a young dealer off the street into an apartment building, only to trade cracked rocks for cocaine at a crime scene with him once protected by the darkness of the building’s staircase. LT immediately lights up with passion as the dealer advises him to take it easy, saying, “Tshit hat’s gonna kill you man.” LT shoots again,” WAre you a drug dealer or a drug consultant? You couldn’t help but laugh at the gloom of the exchange.

In a disturbing and wonderful sequence, we see LT stumbling around naked, sobbing like a baby in the ghostly apartment of two prostitutes. The shimmering piano and light percussion of Johnny Ice’s “Pledging My Love” give the apocalyptic scene some eerie forgiveness. LT forgoes pouring a glass of vodka halfway through and consumes it straight from the bottle instead. Liquor spills on his face and chest, burning his eyes. Although Keitel is good here, half of the magic comes from the way Ferrara portrays the sequence. Everything is seen through this soft, gauze veil. As LT slowly dances with one of the sleepwalking prostitutes, a lonely light creeps from above and illuminates their naked bodies, giving everything a dreamlike quality.

Harvey Keitel as LTV's bad lieutenant Abel Ferrara.

Harvey Keitel as LT in Abel Ferrara’s bad lieutenant.
picture: Lionsgate

The script, co-written by Ferrara and cult actress Zoe Lund, who also plays LT wise Heroin Connect, creates an invisible but crucial parallel line with a fictional National League Championship Series between the Mets and the Dodgers. The series takes place over seven games that seep into the movie through car radios and faded dive-bar televisions. It’s a thriller that gradually ratchets up the tension as LT, who’s been involved in everything Dodgers, falls into more debt to a mysterious gang. When the Mets win two straight games to cut the Dodgers’ 3-0 series lead to one game, LT boils over and blasts a lap into his car radio while stuck in downtown traffic. He blows his police siren and races through the streets screaming. Keitel opens up a new level of unhinged here.

But there is a more important plot point bad lieutenant. In Spanish Harlem, a nun was raped, and there is a $50,000 reward for whoever finds the perpetrators. In a bizarre giallo-style sequence, we witness two young men rape the nun, desecrate the church, and steal the chalice for good measure. The issue quickly gets its way under LT’s skin. Revenge on the nun offers the troubled cop a chance at redemption. What he soon discovers, however, is that the opposite is true: the nun does not want revenge and has sworn to forgive her attackers, setting a Christ-like standard of empathy that we, the audience, are not sure we can meet. It says: “Jesus turned water into wine.” “I should have turned bitter semen into fertile sperm, hate for love, and perhaps save their souls.”

It’s hard to sympathize with LT. It becomes especially difficult after he pulls over two teens driving without a license, coaxing them into a creepy sexual pantomime in exchange for leniency. Very few films, and even fewer now, challenge their audience to empathize with a rotten, rotten character. It’s a bold and provocative game the movie plays, pushing us to sympathize with LT much as the nun pushes him to sympathize with the boys who raped her.

Harvey Keitel in Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant.

Harvey Keitel at Abel Ferrara’s bad lieutenant.
picture: Lionsgate

When he fails to convince the nun to accept his offer of vigilante justice, LT, bewildered by her ability to forgive, crawls down the church aisle howling like a wounded animal. Keitel contorts his face into a sobbing mask of pure pain, staring at the camera and shouting “I’m sorry!” He is talking about hallucinating Christ in front of him but also speaking directly to the audience and asking for their understanding, for their belief that he might find some way to turn this around. “I tried to do the right things but I’m so weak. I’m so weak!” he cries. “I’ve done a lot of bad things.” Nothing, we think. Hidden behind this caustic film is a kind of radical idealism, a view that art can expand our capacity for empathy and love, and act as a way to save lives.

He crawls to Christ’s feet asking for forgiveness, but when his drug-induced mania fever breaks, he looks up to find an elderly black woman holding the stolen golden cup. Arm in hand to Julio and Paolo’s dilapidated basement apartment, two local boys who pawned the chalice in her husband’s shop, we can thus infer the nun’s rape. He stumbles into their hideout with his gun drawn. It turns out that they have more in common with LT than a penchant for sexual violence, as they enjoy one of his favorite pastimes – watching baseball and smoking. It’s the seventh game in the series, and so he sits down to watch it, even giving them some of his “goodies.”

LT then takes them to his car and on the way downtown he wonders aloud, with a slight smile on his face, how the nun can forgive these boys. The glimmer of optimism on his face seemed to suggest Dawn’s realization that maybe he too could be forgiven. He drives them to the Port Authority bus station where he puts them on a bus, the destination of which is unknown. For LT, this is such a drastic departure from his default mode of oppression and ruthlessness, that moment not only gives these boys a chance to start over but he gives himself a chance to do the same.

But unfortunately for LT, it was too late, and in a final act of martyrdom, he was shot and killed outside Madison Square Garden when he showed up for the exchange. This scene is a stylistic departure from the rest of the film, which is often defined by its medium close-ups and claustrophobic approach. Here, Ferrara chooses to place a still hidden camera at a distance. When a city car pulls up and shoots the LT dead, you see what a real shocker looks like for the civilians passing by, along with a few well-designed extras. The first time you see her, despite how inevitable it feels, it hits like a punch to the gut.

Bad Lieutenant – Trailer – HQ

for bad lieutenant, it’s all about the subtle textures and details that give the film an eerie authenticity and illuminate even more on LT and the world he lives in. The film was shot without permits, on the go, with entire scenes improvised, yet somehow manages to feel deeply in mind. Credit goes to its creators – Ferrara, Lund and Keitel (who earn the distinction of providing the closest thing to an on-screen exorcism in an American film). All three New Yorkers struggled with addiction. Ferrara used it during the film’s production, saying years later that “the director of this movie needs to use.” Lund’s relationship with heroin and cocaine would eventually kill her. For his part, Keitel had only recently kicked his cocaine habit following a messy and public custody battle with ex-girlfriend Lauren Bracco.

In a kind of work of supernatural magic, the three of them manage to harness their shared pain and create out of it a deeply unsettling, yet strangely life-affirming allegory for their own lives. This isn’t to say that any of these individuals have personally probed LT’s depths of depravity or sadism, but you can sense that the material is personal to everyone involved – and that they fearlessly throw themselves into it. Makes sense too. A story that revolves around themes of sin and forgiveness, rebirth and redemption, and the cold, hard confrontation that one has to make with oneself before making any changes will not only appeal to these artists, it will be cathartic. Thirty years later, that’s what gives bad lieutenant Its enduring power leaves it reverberating in the hearts of those who pursue it.

#kill #blessed #bad #lieutenant #Abel #Ferrara

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *