A police detective goes undercover in the sleazy and underground gay subculture of New York City to catch a serial killer who is murdering numerous gay men with S&M tactics.
Release Year: 1980
Rating: 6.1/10 (6,918 voted)
Stars: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen
A serial killer brutally slays and dismembers several gay men in New York's S&M and leather districts. The young police officer Steve Burns is sent undercover onto the streets as decoy for the murderer. Working almost completely isolated from his department, he has to learn and practice the complex rules and signals of this little society. While barely seeing his girlfriend Nancy anymore, the work starts changing him.
Writers: William Friedkin, Gerald Walker
Chief of Detectives
(as Edward O'Neil)
Al Pacino is Cruising for a killer.
Release Date: 15 February 1980
Filming Locations: 140 Claremont Avenue, Manhattan, New York, USA
(31 December 1995)
Did You Know?
Brian De Palma really wanted to direct this film but his producers could not obtain the rights to the material, so he made
Dressed to Kill instead.
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers):
The medical examiner discusses the serrations in the wounds of a murder victim but the killer did not use a serrated knife on him.
[he is being cruise by a muscular man]
Do I qualify?
[exhales cigarette smoke]
I hate cigarettes.
I think they're disgusting.
Well I enjoy them.
All it is is anal regressive. If you want to quit I suggest you try another form of childhood stroking.
I don't want to quit.
I suggest you try an ostrich feather along the small of your back, up your spine up to the nape of your neck.
a feel-bad epic from a subversive misanthrope
William Friedkin is a mysterious, often mystifying film-maker. Although
he rose to prominence at the same time as the rest of the so-called
'movie brat' generation of directors (Coppola, Spielberg, Scorsese,
DePalma, et al.), he stands apart, even from a group as essentially
disparate as this one. For one thing, his films lack the intertextual
references and cinematic stylisation common to most of the other
members. If he has an over-riding aesthetic, it would be the ugliness
of the majority of human existence. He's not interested in prettifying
his images or indulging in style-for-style's sake; which is not to say
that his film's don't exhibit inventive and effective technique, just
that this technique is always at the service of the story he's telling,
and is often blunt and brutally effective in it's employment. All of
this no doubt arises from his start in documentary film-making.
Friedkin is particularly good at depicting the menace of urban
environments, and the locales of a lot of his films are frightening,
tangibly real places. Witness the sequences involving Karras' aged
mother in 'The Exorcist', which for me are the most disturbing scenes
in an often terrifying film. As we observe the elderly lady living
alone in her shabby apartment in a crime-ridden neighbourhood, we
realise that this is the existence that many millions of people are
forced to endure, and it's oppressiveness adds immeasurably to the
psychological impact of the film as a whole. We share Karras' fear and
traumatising guilt that she died alone in such circumstances, and the
special effects trickery of the climax is lent a genuine resonance.
Because of the stark, seemingly 'artless' force and apparent
misanthropy of much of his work, a number of otherwise perceptive
commentators dislike Friedkin intensely. Pauline Kael was extremely
cool about 'The French Connection' and absolutely hated 'The Exorcist'.
David Thompson described him as "essentially incompetent", bludgeoning
the audience with blatant and obvious effects. In fact, Friedkin's best
work is highly sophisticated in it's use of sound and music, and
employs often visceral imagery to telling and subversive effect.
However, some of his films ARE genuinely bloody awful, or at least
depressingly mediocre. The very inconsistency of his work lies at the
centre of the mystery that is his career. He seems to me to be a
fiercely intelligent man whose art is driven by his life rather than
the culture of film, and whose reportedly quixotic, often
self-destructive personality in no small measure accounts for the
expansive peaks and troughs of his cinematic achievements.
Friedkin has reassuring or comforting his audience way down the list of
his priorities. In the case of 'Cruising', he neglected to add them at
all. Because of this, 'Cruising' is a very difficult film to watch.
Most film-makers, were they making a film set in such an alien and
frightening environment, would go overboard on providing us with at
least one protagonist we could identify with. But Friedkin takes the
very opposite route and presents us entirely with characters who are
abhorrent, sleazy or totally ambiguous. Indeed, ambiguity is the film's
raison d'etre – we are never sure of anything, and this becomes both
the pictures great strength and source of much audience frustration. It
seems that unlike, say, Spielberg, who continually seeks the
approbation of his audience, Friedkin actively resents his (or rather,
their preconceptions and certainties), leading him to consistently
challenge and upset them. This can be exciting to those who value such
seditious manouveres, but dispiriting and destabilising for those that
The major problem with evaluating 'Cruising' is that the film as it
currently exists is seriously incomplete (apparently having been shorn
of some 40 minutes of footage by the censors!). I suspect that a
'directors cut' should it ever emerge, although no doubt clarifying
certain issues, would overall fail to dispel the central ambiguity that
is so infuriating and troubling to the majority of the audience, and
that lies at the heart of Friedkins vision. "What interests me is the
very thin line between good and evil", the director once said when
asked to provide a thematic overview of his work – and this is the core
I would urge you to watch the film. It is a uniquely dark, brave piece
somewhat compromised by well documented production difficulties and the
censors scissors. It has a sinister, compelling momentum and
wonderfully ugly, grainy textures that seep into your pores leaving you
uncomfortable and unsettled. Sometimes a feel-bad movie can be as
bracing as a winter morning. 'Cruising' is such an experience, and a
fascinating, provocative one at that.