American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Bad Lieutenant" tells the story of a man who is not comfortable inside his body or soul. He walks around filled with need and dread.
He is in the last stages of cocaine addiction, gulping booze to level off the drug high. His life is such a loveless hell that he buys sex just for the sensation of someone touching him, and his attention drifts even then, because there are so many demons pursuing him.
Harvey Keitel plays this man with such uncompromised honesty that the performance can only be called courageous; not many actors would want to be seen in this light.
The lieutenant has no illusions about himself. He is bad and knows he is bad, and he abuses the power of his position in every way he can. Interrupting a grocery store stickup, he sends the beat cop away and then steals the money from the thieves. He sells drug dealers their immunity by taking drugs from them. In the film's most harrowing scene, he stops two teenage girls who are driving their parents' car without permission. He threatens them with arrest, and then engages in an act of verbal rape.