So dedicated are Jose and a young friend to the Cristeros cause that they ride out on horseback and find the secret camp of Gen. He rejects them as soldiers and puts them to work caring for horses.But his love for the boy grows so much that he regards him as a son, and indeed the boy only dies because he is on a mission for Gorostieta. It is also very heavy on battle scenes, in which the Cristeros seem to have uncannily good aim.The central figure is Gorostieta, played by Andy Garcia with impressive strength and presence.
This is all probably blasphemous but it’s also agonizingly sincere, the work of genuinely tortured artists trying to make sense of a fallen world.
Keitel turns in one of those once-in-a-generation performances similar to Marlon Brando in “Last Tango in Paris,” Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull” and Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” insofar as that it feels like the actor is leaving their entrails smeared all over the screen.
This act of grace sends the lapsed Catholic lieutenant into even more of a tailspin, confounded by her compassion and consumed with his own self-hating rage.
The movie mutates into a sleazy street-corner version of a passion play, complete with a Gethsemane sequence inside the desecrated church and a last supper taking place at a crack house.
Friends of Keitel told New York Magazine that he put his own substance abuse struggles and a recent, bitter breakup with wife Lorraine Bracco into “Bad Lieutenant,” using the movie as something like an exorcism.
One of the most notorious moments finds the actor stumbling fully, frontally nude around a prostitute’s apartment while crying and squealing like a wounded dog. Ferrara does his best not to sensationalize this already sordid material.
As a teenage film buff, I had a long-standing policy to go see any movie with Harvey Keitel in it, and I’d been reading about the scandalous “Bad Lieutenant” for months before it finally opened at the old Nickelodeon cinema in Kenmore square, perversely enough on Valentine’s Day, 1993.
Perhaps even more perversely, I ran into an ex-girlfriend in line to see the movie with her new beau.
It’s a movie of wall-to-wall depravity and profound spiritual longing, at once both one of the dirtiest and most deeply religious pictures I’ve ever seen.
The film gets a rare 35mm screening in all its uncut, NC-17 glory this Friday night as part of the Museum of Fine Arts’ excellent “On the Fringe: Indie Film in the ‘90s” series and considering the byzantine rights issues that have cursed the film with various video versions, this might be your only chance to see Ferrara’s original, uncompromised vision.