Dirty cops are guys on the police force who associate with criminal elements so as to further their own interests. You may say that they are bad cops. So extending this logic to those of the higher ranks, bad lieutenants are exactly the same albeit with more to lose should they give into the dark side. Drug peddling, collaboration with gangsters, and doing the horizontal mash with prostitutes; all this and more is the premise of 2009’s drama Bad Lieutenant.
Nicolas Cage plays a cop who has a creative application of the notion of justice. He threatens old ladies, roughs up suspects, and partners up with violent drug pins so as to get his narcotic fix. Doing so in order to obtain money to cover his gambling loses he, in turn, spends what he has at any moment on drugs. When he lacks funds for drugs he shakes down suspected civilians. He has to provide for his addict girlfriend, after all. This is all well and find until he owes too much money to the wrong person. So to pay off his debt he takes his wild ways to the next level.
The plot itself is not remarkable. What is remarkable, however, is the manner in which it is told. Cage’s character’s cocaine addiction results in him having vivid hallucinations; these moments provide some comic relief in what is an otherwise tense story. The writing reflects these odd moments and through a murder investigation reveal the nonchalant nature of his persona. Whether it is looking after a teenage witness or lying to the desperate, the accomplished aura of the lieutenant is never susceptible moments of despair. Indeed, he takes even the shakiest situation in stride. A movement such as this underscores the gravity of the situation should he be discovered for his addiction; yet, seeing as how those who work with him appear to be less than concerned about his personal life, seemingly ignoring his drug use, the entire concept has an element of surrealism.
Suffice it to say this is a film you will want to watch several times in order to fully grasp the content. Structured like a good essay, the beginning is also the end, although in but a modified manner. Everything from the dialogue to the music fits to serve a function: one needs to only watch it once to understand there are layers to the character and universe depicted to flesh out a statement about law, order, nature, and the human condition.