Twelve minutes and twenty-one seconds into Bad Lieutenant, Abel Ferrara has Harvey Keitel’s nameless dirty cop prance about in the nude, pathetically weeping with his arms outstretched, in a room shared by two whores. What follows is a descent into sinful sordidness of the most spectacular sort, with Keitel – on the trail of two thugs who raped a nun – smoking, snorting and shooting drugs (including twice with co-screenwriter Zoe “Ms. 45” Lund), degrading women via verbal abuse and public masturbation, placing increasingly exorbitant, life-threatening bets on the Mets-Dodgers championship series, and calling a hallucinatory vision of Jesus Christ that he sees in Church a “rat fuck.” Ferrara, however, isn’t after just sleazy titillation (though that’s certainly part of the equation) but, rather, a blood-piss-warts-and-all illustration of self-immolation. Using medium shots, extended takes and spiritual imagery far more skuzzy than anything in Scorsese’s oeuvre, Ferrara’s film is – for a tortured portrait of Catholicism-laced guilt, sin and semi-successful absolution – a quite remote affair, the director depicting his protagonist’s plunge into personal hell with a detachment that denies any significant measure of viewer sympathy. In the role of his career, Keitel is an absolute marvel, his anguished performance so awe-inspiringly naked and fearless that, even as his character continues to indulge his ugliest impulses, it’s impossible to turn one’s eyes away. As implied by Lund’s chilling, smack-induced monologue, what dooms Keitel’s officer is a cannibalistic appetite for self-destruction that he can neither resist nor satiate, and it’s Ferrara’s intimate familiarity with such injurious urges that makes Bad Lieutenant the filmmaker’s crowning achievement. Well, that and the fact that it's New York City to the core, from its downtown sidewalk and harshly lit bodega locations to the opening credit sequence’s verbal diatribe from nasal-voiced WFAN icon Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.