Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Film Review: Bad Lieutenant (1991)

Bad Lieutenant (Review)
United States/1991
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...spectacular performance from Harvey Keitel"

While investigating the rape of a nun, The Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) faces his inner demons, which consists of sex, drugs, and gambling addiction...

Bad Lieutenant really isn't about the investigation, despite what my own and what every other description out there will tell you. Instead, Bad Lieutenant focuses on the Lieutenant and his character -- particularly, the deterioration of his character. He gambles thousands and thousands of dollars on baseball games, he consumes many drugs and alcohol whenever he gets the chance, he's sexually deviant, and so on. The film's focus is entirely on the Lieutenant, and what he'll do next. I did enjoy the ending -- very dark, gritty, and contemplative. However, I also thought that due to the lack of story, it felt like a forced character arc -- a resolution that doesn't quite fit.

The fact that this is a character-study may divide some audiences. I love films that focus on character, especially those that enter darker, more taboo territory -- and this succeeds in doing that tenfold. However, I also love a great story. Character is great, but what's the plot? The investigation into the nun case? That plays a very minor role in the film. In fact, that subplot's sole purpose is to offer a resolution -- and, like I previously stated, a resolution that feels forced and out of character. Ultimately, the story is very thin. You're really just watching a character deteriorate -- descend deeper and deeper into his own hell -- as he goes from one situation to another. And, I'm okay with that -- but I won't pretend like it's anything more.

If the story is thin, Harvey Keitel does everything he can to redeem it. Keitel delves deep into this confused and complex character to deliver a powerhouse performance -- which is exactly what a character study needs. The rest of the acting is also great. The film is shot nicely, creating a bleak and gritty atmosphere. The choice of music is also fantastic. Although we constantly complain that many films nowadays don't have enough character development, this is a rare film where it may be too much. The writing could've been fine-tuned to find a balance between character and story -- in this case, the former is overwhelming. Director Abel Ferrara does very well in creating this gritty character-study; doesn't cut any corners and delivers a consistent experience.

Overall, Bad Lieutenant is a fantastic character study and a good crime film. The thin story is partly redeemed by the spectacular performance from Harvey Keitel, as well as the focus on character. I am left wanting more, though, and I wish the story had a more balanced focus.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, graphic drug use, sex and nudity, including a rape scene and full-frontal nudity.

No comments:

Post a Comment