John Lydon’s fans have probably heard that he co-starred opposite Harvey Keitel in a 1983 film—variously titled Copkiller, The Order of Death, Corrupt, or as it was later renamed Corrupt Lieutenant (to capitalize on Bad Lieutenant, of course), but they have probably never seen the film.
No surprise few have ever seen it as the movie hardly saw any release in any form other than a VHS that came out in the mid-80s and a newer crop of bootleg DVDs you can buy at the 99 Cents Only discount stores. The version you can find there—and yes for 99 cents—has a cover that looks like it wasn’t even made on a computer, but by hand, with scissors, tape and magic markers, that’s how schlocky it is. It’s sourced from the same VHS that came out in the 80s. It’s for sale on Amazon, too, often for as low as a penny with $3.99 postage and handling.
Under whatever title, this film is not, by any method of accounting, what you could call a “good” movie, but it does have one very good thing to recommend it and that is the then 24-year-old Lydon’s performance as Leo Smith, a wealthy headcase who falsely(?) confesses to the murders of several dirty narcotics cops to a cop he (and the audience) knows is crooked, played by Keitel. His performance is so strange and riveting (and utterly unhinged/psychotic) that you just can’t take your eyes off him. In many ways he was just doing his standard John Lydon shtick (and wearing his own clothes!), but it’s simply amazing to me that he wasn’t routinely hired for more psycho and “bad guy” roles after this. What a waste. What a Joker he’d have made!
The film was shot in Rome—standing in for New York City—and a few sleazy Gotham exterior shots aside, the producers didn’t really seem to care that much if this was obvious. It’s got a decent, nerve-wracking Ennio Morricone soundtrack, but other than Lydon’s charismatic performance, Copkiller, AKA The Order of Death, AKA Corrupt is pretty sub-par, and at times, a rather tedious affair. Still, I confess that I have watched it at least three times all the way through just for Lydon’s scenes. Sylvia Sidney (Beetlejuice) is also in the film.
More after the jump…