Dennis Peck (Gere) is a cop with more serious vices than using the siren to get home a bit quicker. He defrauds, he does drugs, and he's being investigated by idealistic young Ray Avilla (Garcia) of the Internal Affairs Division.
No film has quite utilised the disquieting, beady-eyed slither of Richard Gere to such sickly-brilliant effect as Mike Figgis’ sleazy thriller. Gere, so erroneously closeted as a romantic lead, thrives as dastardly Dennis Peck, a uniform cop not only the take, but whose labyrinth of wheeler-dealing looks like a one man spree. He is one bad cop, an arch manipulator and womaniser, a swaggering bag of ripe evil, and Gere makes him magnificently hateful. It’s a career best in this study of corruption and macho posturing that seethes and boils unpleasantly.
Figgis, who enjoys the throb of black hearts and the gloomy tints and bleak horizons of noir, is taking a glossy, standard issue thriller and letting it sour. Even Andy Garcia, ostensibly the good guy in this morass of immorality, is a stubborn, hot-headed brute who fails to trust his wife (the sympathetic Nancy Travis). While William Baldwin is simply a wife-beating, coke snorting man of the badge. How realistic all this atmospheric wrong-doing actually is, is open to question, but there is no escaping how compelling Figgis makes it feel.
It has grown a little thin with age, especially Gere’s yuppie baiting speeches, but there’s a hardness here, an aversion to the dumb action thrills of the genre, that keeps it respectably high up the scale.
A lurid, lightweight throw-together of cheap psycho-thrills which tries to dress itself up as something more substantial. Bad Lieutenant it ain't.