CRUISING FOR A BRUISING
A review of William Friedkin’s Cruising in the form of three attempted synopses.
Bruno Kirby fisting and Al Pacino dancing.
1. Cruising is an overwrought and poorly plotted murder mystery that takes place in the seedy gay underbelly of 1970′s New York, and you can bet that belly is furry! Al Pacino plays rookie cop Steve Burns, a young detective who goes undercover in the underground leather bar scene to catch a serial killer preying on gay men. Burns becomes familiar with the rules of the subculture; “cruising” the gay scene while his superiors do all the real police work. As he gets deeper into the lifestyle and closer to the killer, his regular life and relationship with his girlfriend slowly become unhinged. Yup, you guessed it. He catches a bad case of “the gay”.
New forms of police interrogation.
2. William Friedkin’s Cruising is a confusing allegory set in the S&M dungeons of New York City’s West Village. Al Pacino stars as a young rookie cop, and maybe half the gay men in New York, who really knows? He’s on the fence about his sexuality and trying to get ahead in life, so he accepts an assignment to go undercover in an attempt to catch the dreaded “Homo killer.”(This was back in the day when you could actually use the term “homo killer” on the cover of a national newspaper.) Cruising is set in a world of interchangeable leather boys where all gay men are Al Pacino and Al Pacino is all gay men. All gay men work in Steakhouses or brandish steak knives, transferring their need to kill via a messy exchange of hot seed and cold steel. The closer Burns comes to catching the killer, the closer he comes to becoming the killer.
Exactly my reaction.
3. Cruising, directed by William Friedkin, is a perpetuation of the stereotype that all gay men are mustachioed bikers and an offensive allegory for AIDS. Al Pacino plays Steve Burns (it burns, get it?), a rookie cop looking to rise through the ranks of the police department faster than Edmund Exley in short pants. He goes gay for pay as an undercover officer in an attempt to solve a cross section of unrelated murders in the underground leather scene. Friedkin uses the cyclical structure of passing on the need to kill through sex as a metaphor for the spread of AIDS in the gay community. He even goes as far as using the same actor in multiple roles, to further the idea of the facelessness of the gay man, implying any one of them could be a killer (IE: have AIDS.) And what does any of this have to do with the dismembered body parts found floating in the river? Absolutely nothing.