Director: William Friedkin
Writer: William Friedkin, Gerald Walker (Novel)
Starring: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen
How I Watched It: Vudu Rental
Review By: Griff
So one show that I enjoy watching is Californication on Showtime. This past Sunday one of the subplots was that they were planning on remaking a movie called Cruising from back in 1980. Of course my curiosity is now peaked. I went straight to IMDB to see if there actually was a film by that name. Sure enough, it was real and it had Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, and the girl from the Raiders of the Lost Ark (Karen Allen). To top it off it was directed by William Friedkin who directed The French Connection and The Exorcist. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this film before. I had to watch it!
Al Pacino plays Steve Burns, a young cop hoping to move up the ranks and make detective some day. His Captain (Paul Sorvino) calls him into his office one day and offers him a job working undercover. The only catch is, he is going to be undercover as a gay man “cruising” cruising the club scene. It turns out there is a serial killer on the loose and he is hunting and killing gay men that he picks up at fetish bars around the city. The killer has been stalking men that look like Steve so they are hoping that by placing him undercover that killer will approach him. Steve is told that if he completes the assignment he will be on the fast track to making detective so he agrees without hesitation.
Steve moves into an apartment in a predominantly gay section of town and starts heading out to clubs trying to locate the killer. He soon finds out that this assignment is more then he bargained for. He is having a hard time dealing with the sub-culture and it starts to take a toll on his personal life and his relationship with his girlfriend Nancy (Karen Allen). Now not only does Steve need to find a way to stop the killer before he strikes again, he needs to do it fast before the undercover work destroys his personal life.
Cruising was definitely an unusual film. Al Pacino dressed up like one of the village people is going to take me a while to un-see. Honestly the movie is a bit of a mess. Despite the gay subtext, this is nothing more than a 80’s exploitation slasher flick. There is not a lot going on here. There isn’t really any big tension that develops, there is no real hard nosed detective work that we get to watch played out on the screen and for a movie that seemed like it was way too long, the events all play out way too quickly. Pacino’s character never really gets fleshed out and it’s difficult to tell exactly what the inner turmoil is that he is dealing with because none of it is really explained. Is he questioning his own sexuality? Is is just repulsed by what he has to do? I still have no idea.
There are scenes that seemed to come straight out of a David Lynch movie. One scene in particular has Pacino being interrogated by the police. During the questioning a large black man wearing nothing but a jock strap and a cowboy hat walks into the room and slaps Pacino right in the face. Then he turns and leaves. No explanation is given.
All this lunacy leads to a pretty unsatisfying conclusion that will leave you scratching your head and saying what the hell? Did he catch the killer? Is he the killer? Was there more than one killer? I don’t know!
Cruising does have one thing going for it, it is a veritable who’s who of actors from that generation. Besides the leads it has a very young Ed O’Neil, Powers Boothe, James Remar, Joe Spinell (From Maniac), and Mike Starr. Other than that, this one should be left to fade back into utter obscurity. Cruising only gets 1 1/2 guys from me.