Bad Lieutenant is a neo-noir film made in 1992 by Abel Ferrara, concerning a nameless New York police lieutenant (played by Harvey Keitel) as he goes about his daily business of solving homicides while simultaneously indulging in his drug habits and prostitution and worrying about how to pay off his baseball gambling debts, all the while using his position as a weapon to get away with everything. During the investigation of a nun's rape, the Lieutenant begins to reflect on his lifestyle, wondering if he can change it.
The film inspired The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, a movie that features a similar main character, yet is still quite different.
Bad Lieutenant provides examples of:
- The Atoner: The Lieutenant is gradually revealed as this.
- Author Appeal: The Lieutenant sometimes visits the apartment of a thin girl who shoots heroin. She was played by Zoe Lund (née Tamerlis), who was the co-writer of the screenplay, and was a heroin advocate. She is also given writing credit on "Port of Call New Orleans", although by that time she was already deceased. From heroin.
- Bowdlerized: As places like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video refused to carry NC-17-rated films (such as this), the film's distributor Live Entertainment released an R-rated version that cuts out five minutes of the explicit content, which messes with the pacing.
- Creator Cameo: Zoe Lund. She had previously worked with director Ferrara, having played the titular role in Ms. 45.
- Dirty Cop: The Titular Nameless Lieutenant. Not only does he sexually harass women and jerks off in front of one of them, he partakes in cocaine and heroin and is a pretty horrible person in general.
- Downer Ending: The Lieutenant himself is killed by a drive-by shooter after finally finding redemption and self-forgiveness by freeing the nun's rapists.Drive-By Shooter: Hey, cop!
- The Hero Dies: The Lieutenant himself at the end.
- Hookers and Blow: There's several scenes of the Lieutenant getting strung out with a couple of prostitutes. It's a lot more sleazy and grimy than the trope is usually presented, however. In the scene with Zoe Lund, that's real Heroin being injected into her.
- Karma Houdini: The nun's rapists. Even considering the fact that the nun forgives them, the Lieutenant smokes drugs with them and then puts them on a bus for parts unknown, and gives them the cigar box with thirty grand in it.
- Leave the Camera Running: The final scene keeps going after the main event occurs.
- No Name Given: The Lieutenant. He's only credited as LT and is only called Lieutenant by the characters in the film
- Rape as Drama: The nun. Though apparently she copes with it better than expected.
- Redemption Equals Death: The Lieutenant himself at the end.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: After spending so much on the cynical end, the film amazingly ends on an idealistic note that shows that even the worst individuals are never completely beyond redemption.