Cruising – Al Pacino week

This is Al Pacino week. Cruising is currently available on Netflix instant play.


AVOID: Cruising (1980) – Rated R

“After a serial killer brutally murders several gay men in New York’s S&M and leather districts, cop Steve Burns (Al Pacino) goes undercover on the streets, where he must learn the complex rules of the underground gay subculture if he’s to catch the psycho. Karen Allen co-stars as Burns’s girlfriend in this gritty 1980 thriller, which sparked protests from gay rights groups at the time of its release but has since developed a minor cult status.”

“Hips or lips?”

Wow! The minor cult status mentioned at the end of the Netflix description must be the sort that is accorded Showgirls. The film begins with a caveat that it is not representative of homosexuality in general (Duh!). The notice detracts somewhat from the campy vibe this movie gives out.

It is hard to believe that William Friedkin wrote and directed this film. He won a Best Director Oscar for The French Connection in 1972 and was nominated again for The Exorcist in 1974. He specializes in and has an affinity for gritty material. That would seem to make this right up his alley.

It appears as though he wanted to direct an exploitation movie. Sadly it doesn’t revel in the exploitative portions of this topic – at least that could have been entertaining. Either William Friedkin showed a lot of restraint or the film was heavily trimmed to get its ‘R’ rating. The police portions of the movie are given short shrift as well. This has to be the most boring undercover movie ever.

There is no life in any of the performances. All the actors including Al Pacino appear to be on Ritalin. Even the victims as they are being killed seem somewhat bored. For a film that should have been about lust and passion, there sure isn’t any shown on the screen. Al Pacino’s undercover cop starts having problems at home and both parties react with ‘meh’.

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this even on a campy level. Once I realized that it was going to be awful, my hope was that it would be so awful that it was fun to watch. Sadly this was not the case.

Pacino’s movies are strangely polarizing. So far they seem to be either classics or total garbage. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s movie is one of the former.

People Watch: Look for Powers Boothe as, not kidding, ‘Hankie Salesman’. His very brief role is probably the highlight of the movie.

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