If police lieutenant Harvey Keitel's life could get any more sordid, he could probably sell tickets. The least of his vices is gambling, which has gotten him in Dutch with the mob. He abuses his body with drugs and his soul with hookers, and now he's turned to exploiting teenage girls for sex.
Keitel is forced to reassess his life while investigating the rape of a nun.
Director Abel Ferrara co-wrote the screenplay with Zoe Lund, who as Zoe Tamerlis starred in Ferrara's cult classic Ms. 45. A soundtrack tune by rapper Schoolly D, which was included in the initial release of Bad Lieutenant, featured a sample from Led Zeppelin which was used without permission; the song has since been excised from the soundtrack.