Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Bad Lieutenant"(1992)d/Abel Ferrara

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If you happen to be in the midst of a discussion concerning independent film directors, and the subject of Bronx native, Abel Ferrara, comes up, you can avoid any lengthy pretentious banter by the bearded-trendy-Nancys-in-skinny-jeans surrounding you(who always seem to think their grasp on film is much firmer than yours, of course) about "Driller Killer"(1979), "Ms. 45"(1981), or even 1990's "King of New York" by simply uttering two words, and naming his greatest cinematic achievement, one of the best movies of the nineties, hands down, in the same breath.Bad Lieutenant.The subject of tonight's focus, which is lovingly dedicated to the memory of my mother, Jean Marie Antonello-Monteforte, who was arguably the most hardcore fan of this movie that ever walked the earth.Il mondo 'e vuoto senza di te.For serious.There've been some bad cops in cinema history.Gary Oldman in Leon:The Professional(1994), Orson Wells in Touch of Evil(1958), the entire force in Serpico(1973) all immediately come to mind.None compare to the nameless antihero in Ferrara's 1992 sordidly brilliant offering; a despicable criminal, hopeless drug addict, and degenerate gambler all wrapped up into one corrupt-as-fuck Manhattan police detective, as realized by Harvey Keitel, one of my long-time favorite actors, in one of the grittiest, slimiest, and most unforgettable performances in his long, storied career.Also on board in supporting capacities here are Victor Argo, Paul Calderon, Frankie Thorn, and Ms. 45 star, the late Zoë Lund, who along with Argo, Calderon, and Ferrara, wrote the screenplay, as well.This one oozes New York from every frame; you could probably reach out to the screen and pull back a slice from Sbarro's, luke warm, just how you like it.My college cohorts and I walked around campus parroting Keitel's every outrageous line for weeks after first seeing it.A word of advice, avoid the R cut altogether and dive headlong into the NC-17 version of the film instead, you'll be glad you did.Onwards!
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A healthy breakfast begins with snortables.
We're introduced to the titular detective(Harvey Keitel) as he's forced to drive his two young sons to school, due to Aunt Wendy's early morning dilly-dallying in the bathroom.He tips them off that next time, he'll "throw her the fuck out."After letting the boys out, he snorts a bump of cocaine in plain view of the school, and drives off.He meets up with his fellow beat cops and detectives and discusses their betting plans for the upcoming NLCS game between the Mets and Dodgers, advising them to bet on the Mets, who are down three games to zero, while he secretly lays his winnings on the Dodgers.He's seen chasing a street-level coke dealer into a tenement building, where the two men divvy up a huge bag of headache powder(that the Lt. can't seem to help dipping into over and over).An alcohol-fueled mid-shift rendezvous with a pair of prostitutes(one male, one female) leaves him naked and shmammered, incoherently crying and babbling.He shows up at an Asian bodega that's just been held up by two black teenagers, sends off the arresting officer and store owner, then strong arms the ganked loot off the thugs(which he pockets), letting them run off.The owner's granddaughter watches as he helps himself to free beer and snacks in the empty corner market.He stops off at another girl's place, where they smoke heroin off of some tin foil together.Meanwhile, two hispanic crackheads defile a local church, brutally gangraping and sodomizing one of the nuns in the process.The Lieutenant's bet doesn't pay off, as the Mets win their first game.At the crime scene of a lead headshot execution-style murder, he's tipped off by a transvestite informant to an as-of-yet undiscovered huge sack of powder in the vehicle , which he tries to slip under his blazer, but it falls out to the ground as he moves away from the car.He mouths "Fuck!" under his breath.Later, he pulls over two underaged Jersey girls out clubbing on grass, and forces the driver to mimic her blowjob technique through the window, while the passenger displays her ass to him as he jerks off in the street.He stumbles drunkenly to the scene of the nun's rape and passes the fuck out.New York's finest, alright.
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Yeah, he's fuckin' serious:Jersey Girl(Eddie Daniels) shows the Lt.(Harvey Keitel)how she sucks a guy's cock.
He listens to the next game of the series on his cruiser's radio, and when the Dodgers lose again(he's gone double or nothing, despite telling his colleagues to leeeeave it on the Mets), he has a breakdown in midotwn traffic, shooting his radio(!), and screaming "Nigguh cocksuckuh!"(!!) as he tearfully weaves through traffic.At his sons' first holy communion he again doubles his bet, despite being down thirty grand to a maniac bookmaker who'll blow his house up with his whole family in it.At home, he blows a line off of a photograph of his kids.He then watches the Dodgers lose a third game in a row while at the bar.He meets the bookmaker's associate at the Limelight, zooted out of his mind on coke, demanding that the stakes be raised to 120 thousand for the deciding game seven.Afterwards, he returns to the girl's apartment, where they both boot some heroin.Sixty grand in the hole, he desperately tries to convince the beautiful, young nun to finger her attackers, but she's already forgiven them(!) as Jesus would have done.He hallucinates seeing Christ in the church, calling him a 'rat fuck'(!) before breaking down and begging forgiveness from the Son of God, finally realizing it's an elderly black woman from the pawn shop returning the chalice.With fifteen grand from his drug dealer connection, he busts into a dilapidated crack house and busts the two cholos responsible for the attack.He watches the Dodgers lose the final game, and fills the boys' crack stem with a rock of his own and gets high with the cuffed perps.He berates and pulls his gun on the rockheads in his cruiser, before driving them to Port Authority, giving them the fifteen thousand dollars(!) and setting them free(!!) on the first bus out of the city(!!!) to reboot their wasted lives.He agonizingly moans, knowing doing the Christian thing has just sealed his fate.While parked outside Madison Square Garden waiting for his bookie, a car drives up and shoots him twice in the head.Bystanders don't even seem to care very much.That's New York, for you.
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"Gimme a little more." The Lt. isn't above partying with a little vein candy.
Ferrara originally intended Christopher Walken to play the lead role, eventually handing him the reigns to his later 'King of New York' effort, which, interestingly enough, also showcases tracks by legendary gangster rap pioneer/Philly emcee, Schoolly-D, one of the director's favorite artists.The Swedish-Romanian Lund, also a Ferrara favorite, tragically passed away in Paris from lung and heart failure due to drugs at the age of thirty-seven.WFAN's Chris "Mad Dog" Russo supplies the nasally manic sports radio banter in the film, shot in all of eighteen days total.The BBFC lopped nearly two minutes of heroin use out of the film for the British release.This is one motherfuck of a movie, dealing with personal demons, and ultimately, redemption, in a realistic light that's both hard to watch at times and impossible to turn away from.On the scale, Lieutenant scores a perfect four wops, and comes with my fullest recommendation.It neeevah coulda gone....any...othah...way.Get your mitts on it, pron-fucking-to.
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Bad Lt.to a vision of "Rat Fucker" aka/Jesus Christ:"I've done so many bad things!"
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