By Dominic Antill

Harvey Keitel delivers an intense and memorable performance in this role as the most corrupt and disillusioned member of the NYPD you will ever see.

What is perhaps most enjoyable about this film by Abel Ferrara is that there is no convoluted plot to follow. This is simply a man of power, lost amidst a deluge of drugs, alcohol and sexual debauchedness spiralling further and further into oblivion.

If that was not enough main character faults he is also heavily in debt, with a gambling addiction that is only kept afloat by his badge and his balls.

Immorality on the streets is observed from scene to scene without even a moment’s pause for a policeman in a doughnut house cliché in sight.

Indeed the attempts of The Lieutenant to actually perform as a cop are often hopeless, if not embarrassing, such is the total meltdown the viewer witnesses; this is a man that is firmly entrenched on the other side of the thin blue line, except he finds himself with a badge.

It may perhaps be unpolished, and at times you may feel that the scenes of gluttonous sin are straying into the vulgar for vulgarity sake but this delivers a very raw, uncompromising punch.

Consequentially the film is difficult to watch, going hand in hand with such a convincing central performance. Keitel offers his body and soul almost in sacrifice to play a character draped in the degradation of urban life.

There is of course, a singular moment for salvation, a case emerging that arrests Keitel’s conflicted morals, leaving him compelled to find the two perpetrators who raped a nun and defaced the local Spanish church.

The scene in the church brings this moral anguish to focus for The Lieutenant; he seeks redemption from a God that he has lost all faith in, wailing for forgiveness the viewer is offered the opportunity to sympathise should they wish.

Hallucinating that Christ is before him, he looks up to find it is an old lady instead. Regardless, both he and the viewer sense an opportunity for redemption; it is just a question of whether he has enough time to make amends.

This final layer of the film takes it away from being purely an observation of the obscene and offers a glimpse of purification from even the direst of worlds.

Bearing in mind Keitel was excellent in Reservoir Dogs which came out in the same year, this is a chance to see the man in centre stage and he doesn’t disappoint.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.