Saturday, August 15, 2020


Movie Name: Cruising
Year of Release: 1980
Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Al Pacino, Karen Allen, Paul Sorvino, Richard Cox, Don Scardino, Joe Spinell, Jay Acovone, Randy Jergensen, Barton Heyman
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 

Synopsis and Review:
Director William Friedkin started the 70s with a stupendous combination of films, namely "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist". Though his remake of "The Wages of Fear", "Sorcerer", has since been re-examined and held to a higher regard, upon its initial debut, it was a massive flop from which the director never quite recovered. "Cruising" came out in 1980, following a complicated shooting, which was frequently interrupted by protests from the Gay community. The film is based on the book by Gerald Walker, and focuses on the story of Steve Burns, a police officer in NY. Steve is assigned to a particularly gruesome case, one that he decides to tackle, since it's an opportunity for him to get a rapid promotion. There's a killer in NY targeting and killing gay men, in particular the ones who frequent Leather/S&M bars and discos. Steve is dispatched to go undercover, go to these places, lure the killer, or at least potentially identify him. As Steve becomes more familiarized with the clubs, lifestyle, and some of its players, his own life starts changing, something he confides with his lieutenant. As the killer continues to wreak a lethal havoc in the community, Steve suspects he may be onto someone, but at what cost will that arrest will come.
One of the common threads which permeates William Friedkin's films is the general sense of darkness that is tied with not only its lead characters, but also with the epilogue of the films themselves. In his universe, the lead characters are typically ambiguous, the hero for instance, never quite being as perfect as he seems, and the villain never quite as evil as he/she seems. "Cruising" is a good example of that, where Steve's undercover work, leads him on a discovery of this new world, forcing him to question who he is. This path he embarks on, also alienates him from his current relationships, and may even, as the film suggests, taint him to a possible murderous side. It's a film that caused controversy, in particular for the fear that it would stereotype the gay community, or at least continue to perpetuate that gay individuals are deranged killers filled with self loathing. Even if that's not the case, it's nonetheless a film filled with darkness, where Friedkin successfully builds an ominous environment. One can't help but think, that as the lead character becomes acquainted with this universe, the darkness eventually envelopes him, transforming him into something else, even if the ending is very ambiguous. The lead character dominates the narrative, while the supporting players have very little character development, which is one of the film's downfalls. Al Pacino is as always, formidable, playing Steve with a mix of ambition, incredulity and even at times, gentleness. It's an interestingly flawed film, to this day able to elicit some strong opinions, but nonetheless, a testament to the talent of this director in telling different stories.