“There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
A naive cop (Al Pacino) goes undercover in New York’s gay S&M scene in order to help capture a serial killer.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Al Pacino Films
- Karen Allen Films
- Murder Mystery
- Serial Killers
- Undercover Cops and Agents
- William Friedkin Films
This notorious thriller — lambasted upon its release by many gay rights groups and critics — is ultimately more of a voyeuristic mood piece than an effective murder-mystery. While director Friedkin does a good job establishing the racy milieu of underground S&M clubs (his attention to detail is almost that of an anthropologist), his plot falters when it comes to characterization and consistency. We never learn enough about Pacino’s character to understand — or care about — the transformation he undergoes:
… and Karen Allen as his girlfriend (a potential protagonist for audiences to relate to) is wasted in a bit role.
In addition, the killer’s motivations are never satisfactorily explored, and the film’s resolution — when a likable character is inexplicably killed off — is confusing. With that said, Cruising remains must-see viewing simply for its erstwhile notoriety, and for Friedkin’s attempt at depicting one man’s “descent” into an uncomfortably foreign world.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Effective use of NY’s underground S&M scene as a setting
- Fine cinematography
Yes, simply for its historical notoriety.