Released in 1992, I remember Bad Lieutenant causing a sensation. Directed by Abel Ferrera, I remember feeling like it bordered on porn, with copious full-frontal male nudity, rampant drug use, masturbation, and a vile act of rape. Watching it again more than thirty years later, it remains an unsettling character study of a deplorable human being.

We are dropped directly into the trainwreck of a lifestyle lived by a nameless NYC Lieutenant played by Harvey Keitel. When we first meet him, he drops his kids off at school, swearing, yelling, not wearing seatbelts and as soon as they’re gone, he does a couple bumps of cocaine to get his day started. We then follow him as he steals from crime scenes in exchange for drugs. It doesn’t matter what kind, coke, crack, meth, heroin, whatever he can get. He hangs out with prostitutes and digs himself into a deep hole of gambling debt.

It’s the baseball playoffs, and he’s placing bets with reckless abandon. With every loss he doubles down, determined to get back the money he lost. Soon, he’s betting thousands of dollars he doesn’t have. His Dodgers keep losing to the Mets, he knows if he doesn’t come up with $60,000 the mafia will come after him and his family. This lieutenant is, without question, a bad, bad man. However, he’s offered a shot at redemption of sorts, when a young nun is brutally raped by a pair of thugs on the altar of a church in Spanish Harlem.  However small, the lieutenant finds a moral compass and a desire to repent and seek forgiveness.

The film leaves you to believe anyone can be redeemed, even the rapists. The story is so distorted and disturbed, I thought the whole thing might end with the mafia bookie forgiving Keitel’s debt. Perhaps the bookie would find redemption as well. For me, the film is just too much. Neither its gritty look, nor the forceful performance of Keitel can save it. The film’s NC-17 rating is earned Keitel’s full-frontal nudity, and a scene where he shoots up heroin. If Abel Ferrera aimed to disturb, he accomplishes it two-fold.

A true story that’s been distorted, its interesting to note that one of the cops in the film is Bo Dietl, a real cop who arrested the actual nun rapists.

A brand new HDR Dolby Vision master from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, Kino Lorber has delivered the film looking better than it ever has. Well textured, things look natural throughout. The visuals are lush, yet appropriately dingy. Colors are well dialed in throughout. Scratches and other visual anomalies aren’t an issue.

Kino includes a stereo soundtrack and a 5.1 mix. While the latter adds more depth to the proceedings, it also reveals some false separation between channels. The result is some moments of echoing dialogue. The 2.0 audio sounds just as strong but allows for a better mix of all the elements. Unfortunately, Schoolly D’s “Signifying Rapper” is still removed due to copyright infringement.

English SDH subtitles are available.

The following extras are included:


  • Audio Commentary by Director Abel Ferrera and Cinematographer Ken Kelsch


  • Audio Commentary by Director Abel Ferrera and Cinematographer Ken Kelsch
  • NEW!! Interview with Cinematographer Ken Kelsch
  • NEW!! Bad Neighborhoods: The Locations of Bad Lieutenant Featurette
  • Retrospective Documentary: Featuring Exclusive Interviews with the Cast and Crew
  • Theatrical Trailer
Bad Lieutenant (1992)
3.5 Reviewer