Cruising

February 15th, 1980







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Plot
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)

Director: William Friedkin

Stars: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen

Storyline
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

Cast:
Al Pacino - Steve Burns
Paul Sorvino - Capt. Edelson
Karen Allen - Nancy
Richard Cox - Stuart Richards
Don Scardino - Ted Bailey
Joe Spinell - Patrolman DiSimone
Jay Acovone - Skip Lee
Randy Jurgensen - Det. Lefransky
Barton Heyman - Dr. Rifkin
Gene Davis - DaVinci
Arnaldo Santana - Loren Lukas
Larry Atlas - Eric Rossman
Allan Miller - Chief of Detectives
Sonny Grosso - Det. Blasio
Ed O'Neill - Det. Schreiber (as Edward O'Neil)

Taglines: Al Pacino is Cruising for a killer.

Release Date: 15 February 1980

Filming Locations: 140 Claremont Avenue, Manhattan, New York, USA

Gross: $19,798,718 (USA) (31 December 1995)



Technical Specs

Runtime:



Did You Know?

Trivia:
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.

Goofs:
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.

Quotes:
Stuart Richards: [he is being cruise by a muscular man] Do I qualify?
[exhales cigarette smoke]
Loren Lukas: I hate cigarettes.
Stuart Richards: Oh, really?
Loren Lukas: I think they're disgusting.
Stuart Richards: Well I enjoy them.
Loren Lukas: All it is is anal regressive. If you want to quit I suggest you try another form of childhood stroking.
Stuart Richards: I don't want to quit.
Loren Lukas: I suggest you try an ostrich feather along the small of your back, up your spine up to the nape of your neck.
Stuart Richards: Sounds addictive.
[...]



User Review

a feel-bad epic from a subversive misanthrope

Rating:

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 don't.

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 of 'Cruising'.

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.









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