William Friedkin’s Cruising
A hungry young cop placed undercover in New York's gay/S&M subculture in hopes of catching a serial killer. Hijinks ensue.
Published on May 14, 2009 | Filed under Review

I had never even heard of this film before we arbitrarily chose to watch it. Al Pacino is a hungry young cop placed undercover in New York’s gay/S&M subculture in hopes of catching a serial killer. Hijinks ensue.

Cruising shocked me. The frank manner in which homosexuality and S&M were discussed caught me off guard. There was a constant supply of leather and shirtless, sweaty, writhing men. The way in which most scenes were filmed left me feeling dirty and voyeuristic. Both Pacino’s character and I were peering into a world we shouldn’t be privy to. I must say I was enraptured.

The story itself is interesting enough; cops chasing down a deranged serial killer. Nothing too ground breaking, but an intriguing whodunit none the less. When you throw the late 70’s gay subculture into the mix it becomes something all together different. I have never seen a movie deal with certain aspects of homosexuality with such an in your face tone.

Cruising comes complete with some “wtf?!” moments. A large black cop wearing only a cowboy hat and a jock strap proceeds to smack some guys around during interrogation. If you can figure out who he is and why he needs the hat I would be greatly appreciative. Pacino’s character also gets a lesson in the meanings behind some specifically colored bandannas. It’ll make you think twice about placing that yellow piece of cloth in your back pocket. This film expertly immerses you into (for me at least) a completely foreign world.

Pacino isn’t the only name attached to this film that’s worth mentioning. Paul Sorvino is the fatherly captain, Karen Allen plays Pacino’s mousy girlfriend and Joe “Maniac” Spinell is a creepy cop! There are so many wonderful things about this film. It’s dark, gritty, hopeless and one hell of an entertaining watch. Cruising is currently avilable for instant watch on netflix.

Christine enjoys obsessing over Paracinema magazine. She also loves well written hour long TV dramas. Her free time is spent with her many boyfriends: Brian De Palma, Edgar Wright & Alfred Hitchcock.

  • James

    I remember catching this movie at 3 a.m. on HBO when I was 9 years old and going ‘wtf’ every 10 minutes. It was a harsh and grim look at the underground gay lifestyle and William Friedkin really melds together a great thriller from a time when there were really people going around killing gay people viciously.

    Some call it homophobic. I’ve read reviews denouncing the movie but it is a product of its time. All Pacino would go to gay clubs and fit in, just to see how far he could go. The DVD is fantastic too, with some great making ofs and a Friedkin commentary.

    Great review of a film that deserves more recognition.

  • Joe Humphrey

    When I was growing up Cruising was one of those crazy movies that people kind of whispered about but I never quite knew what the big deal was. I still haven’t seen it but I always meant to.

  • christine

    I definitely recommend it Joe.

  • Anonymous

    I just watched this film and I was a little confused at the end. I thought the plot was average, but the personal journey that he took was interesting to watch. I think Pacino is great at showing the slow crack of a characters mind with vivid facial emotion. His eyes are every expressive, and that's rare, at least for me, to see in an actor.

    My take on the man in the cowboy hat was that he was supposed to look so strange and out of place that if the suspect tried to tell anyone about him that they'd think he was crazy. I think that's why the other cops acted like he wasn't even in the room and that way they could get away with abusing suspects without the fallout.

    I enjoyed the admittedly voyeuristic look into a different culture, and thought this movie was definitely worth the time.