Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 18
  2. Negative: 1 out of 18
Watch On
  1. 100
    It is not a "dirty movie," and in fact takes spirituality and morality more seriously than most films do. And in the bad lieutenant, Keitel has given us one of the great screen performances in recent years.
  2. Not only more crazy than “Reservoir Dogs,'' but it also feels more real. [1 Jan 1993, Daily Notebook, p.D1]
  3. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    For all its scenes of degradation (five minutes of which have been shorn for an R-rated cut; we recommend the original NC-17 version), Bad Lieutenant is a deeply moral movie. It's not pretty-it's not even very realistic-but it does matter.
  4. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Abel Ferrara's uncompromising Bad Lieutenant is a harrowing journey observing a corrupt NY cop sink into the depths, with an extraordinary and uninhibited performance by Harvey Keitel in the title role.
  5. There's an undeniable formal elegance in the way Ferrara, who coauthored the script with Zoe Lund, frames and holds certain shots, and Keitel certainly gives his all in this 1992 entry in the Raging Bull redemptive sweepstakes.
  6. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Abel Ferrara out-sleazes even his own grubby oeuvre with this powerful if overbearing study of a soul swallowed by depravity.
  7. What it lacks in charm, it compensates for with audacity and single-mindedness of vision.
  8. 75
    For Keitel, this is the Scorsese film that Scorsese never gave him, in which he gets to elbow Robert De Niro away from center stage and take the best part for himself. He seizes the opportunity: Bad Lieutenant immediately becomes one of the defining roles of his career. [22 Jan 1993, Friday, p.C]
  9. Pick your cliche - searing, rivetting, haunting - Keitel delivers a performance to rival Brando's in "Last Tango In Paris."
  10. 70
    Ferrara is clearly drawing an equation between the criminals' actions and The Lieutenant's, and as trite (and potentially shameless) as this may sound, it actually works.
  11. Reviewed by: Staff (Non Credited)
    Harvey Keitel gives an astonishing performance here... Though hardly a film for all sensibilities, Bad Lieutenant has the courage of its own convictions, and follows them to the bitter end.
  12. It's a film enthralled by its own lower depths… Although Bad Lieutenant is structured as a redemptive thriller, it functions primarily as a freak show with religioso overtones. [30 Dec 1992, Calendar, p.F-7]
  13. Mr. Ferrara has his saving graces, too, the chief one being raw talent, which he continues to display while telling even the most far-fetched story.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    A serious film about the gnawing of conscience and the thirst for redemption, but the tone is so dispassionately vile it may leave viewers shaken or sick. [16 Nov 1992, p.95]
  15. 50
    As good as the lead actor is, he's not enough to save this picture from landing on the scrap-heap of uninspired, derivative, and grotesquely distasteful character studies. Ferrara is definitely no Martin Scorsese.
  16. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    It's the first film to include both a cameo appearance by Jesus and a full-frontal nude shot of Harvey Keitel dancing in a drugged stupor. [20 Nov 1992, Life, p.4D]
  17. Despite a glut of luridness, the story line feels essentially flat, as Keitel stumbles through New York in an immoral, unchanging haze. It is only the strength of Keitel's performance that gives his personality human dimension.
  18. Reviewed by: Michael Sragow
    Yes, you get to see Harvey Keitel's penis; the only surprise is that Jesus keeps His under wraps.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 23 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. JoshC
    Jan 16, 2007
    A hardcore scuzzmeister elevates himself to a new place with this startling, powerfully restrained portrayal of sin and salvation in godless A hardcore scuzzmeister elevates himself to a new place with this startling, powerfully restrained portrayal of sin and salvation in godless NY. Keitel's inarticulate maudit philosopher is the most uninhabited performance in this disco inferno that also offers relgious hallucinations. As sordid as the material is, the movie isn't oppressive. Full Review »