RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
• New Commentary
• Retrospective Documentary
Abel Ferrara’s classic gets a needless re-release.
That’s actual heroin. R.I.P., Zoë!
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Zoë Lund, Victor Argo, Frankie Thorn
Director/Writer: Abel Ferrara, Zoë Lund
Harvey Keitel’s nameless Lieutenant dangles from the underbelly of seedy 1980’s New York like a fat tick. When he’s not taking advantage of women at traffic stops, he’s selling or using drugs he’s collected as evidence, having sex with junkies, or supporting a gambling vice that leads him deep into debt. When thugs rape a nun and BL is assigned to investigate, he’s finally given a shot at redemption, but it may be too late.
Of all the Lieutenant’s vices, Häagen Dazs was the most insidious
First, the good news: This is the same 96 minute NC-17 cut as the last DVD release of Bad Lieutenant, which means the movie still packs a mean punch. Pay no attention to Amazon listing this version as rated R – it’s not the diluted cut originally released for Blockbuster video.
The bad news? The only reason to even bother with this version is for Ferrara’s new commentary, which is a fun, breezy listen, but doesn’t shed a lot of light on Bad Lieutenant.
Bad Lieutenant, from The Driller Killer‘s Abel Ferrara, paints 1980’s New York as hell on Earth, with Keitel’s Lieutenant as its unflinching Baal. It spends most of its running time lingering over BL’s graphic misdeeds, and builds a great ethics puzzle in the process: Can a character ever be irredeemable? Can a dirty cop who molests girls at traffic stops ever turn it around? Ferrara and Lund might have thought so, using Frankie Thorn’s impossibly forgiving nun as a trigger for the Lieutenant’s transformation.
Of course, you probably don’t need anyone telling you to watch Bad Lieutenant. If you’re reading CHUD, you’re probably already well aware of how great the movie is, and eagerly await Herzog’s followup, Bad Lieutenant: Old Lady Gun Murder.
So, is it worth the double dip? It’s pretty telling when the director spends most of the commentary complaining about the transfer, which is perpetually overlit and looks more like a television show than the original DVD release, which wasn’t even that good to begin with. Not only is this not worth the double dip, it’s not even worth buying if you haven’t seen the film. The 1998 release’s cheap transfer almost works better, although at least this new release provides the more accurate aspect ratio.
If there are any redeeming qualities here, it’s all in the commentary. Ferrara spends a good deal of it bitching about extras with cinematographer Ken Kelsch, but drops more than a few fun nuggets, like: Zoë Lund, who overdosed a few years after filming Bad Lieutenant, uses real heroin in her infamous drug scene, and that Keitel seemingly had a stronger hand in creating the Lieutenant character than either of the writers. Ferrara’s in a constant state of awe whenever Keitel steals a scene, which is for most the film’s running time. He talks a little about the sequel, which apparently might have gone in a completely different direction: “They wanted to make [The Lieutenant’s] kids the stars of the sequel. Can you fucking believe that? What a stupid idea.”
Sadly, the commentary is a booby prize in what’s an obviously sequel-aware cash in. Let’s hope Bad Lieutenant gets a good release at some point, because this surely ain’t it.
Besides a trailer and the commentary, there’s a brief featurette. It won’t justify a purchase. While the transfer was botched, the audio is a robust 3/2.1.
The yellow background on the box art is a tragedy.
6 out of 10