Sidewinder’s View: Corrupt (1983), AKA Order Of Death/Copkiller

From 1983, this morning’s first movie, which I recently purchased from Code Red’s Big Cartel site after previewing the first 20 minutes of the film on You Tube a week or so ago.

Directed by Roberto Faenza, the film’s based on a novel by co-screenwriter Hugh Fleetwood, titled Order Of Death, which is the title appearing on this Blu-ray version’s opening credit sequence. The film was also released under the title Copkiller.

copkiller poster

Harvey Keitel’s a dirty cop who abducts a possible cop-killer (John Lydon) whom he discovers has been stalking him for months, then holds the young guy hostage in his upscale NYC bachelor pad, which Keitel’s paid for with ill-gotten funds.

Keitel’s cop roommate (Leonard Mann) objects to Keitel’s abduction of the cop-killer, things escalate quickly, and grow bloody. Soon Lydon and Keitel are rooming together, bickering like an old married couple, only the topic of their arguments concerns how Keitel’s going to keep from getting busted by his fellow officers for all the corrupt shit he’s been involved in, particularly murder.

Corrupt Blu

An Italian production set, but only partly filmed, in New York City, this is one of those movies I’d heard about for years but had never had the chance to see until now. From the few reviews I’d seen for the film over the years, I’d heard it was talky and weird, which the reviewers hadn’t meant as a compliment.


I rather enjoyed the film, though. As the sadistic, conflicted police lieutenant, Keitel’s terrific, as usual. Sylvia Sidney, in what’s basically an extended cameo, appears as Lydon’s wealthy grandmother, which helped lend the picture a Larry Cohen/God Told Me To vibe.


The movie was filmed in 1981. According to John Lydon, Harvey Keitel had no idea who Lydon was when they made the movie. Lydon has a few clunky line readings, but for the most part, he’s a pretty decent actor and has a compelling screen presence. The script had several plot twists I wasn’t expecting, including the film’s ending.


Not a great movie, but pretty good. Much better than the impressions given off by those bad reviews I’d read throughout the years and well worth the price I paid for it over at Code Red’s site. Unlike certain other blind-buy Big Cartel purchases I’ve made…

Corrupt / Order Of Death / Copkiller was a (mostly) blind purchase that turned out to be very satisfying. Definitely worth a repeat viewing, if only for the moments of Keitel’s character engaging in some vicious police brutality on Lydon’s character, which eventually became oddly comical. If I had to describe the vibe of these particular moments, I’d say they play like The Three Stooges viewed through an Abel Ferrara prism.


Here’s what has to say about the film:

Often regarded as the predecessor to Keitel’s acclaimed ‘Bad Lieutenant’ this dark psychological thriller centres on guilt, lies, corruption, and ultimately: revenge.

Corrupt cops are being murdered in New York. Leo Smith (Lydon) tracks down Lieutenant Fred Mason (Harvey Keitel) and confesses. Although dismissing him as the murderer, Mason decides he can’t afford to release him; since Smith has discovered his secret apartment; acquired through ill-gotten gain. Mason keeps Smith prisoner in the apartment, however, a series of events unfurl which sees Smith turning the tables and slowly taking control.

“He was an evil sod, he deserved to win” Lydon commented at the time.


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