Cruising focuses on the mission of officer Steve Burns (Al Pacino). After a stream of male body parts washes up on the shores of the Hudson River in New York City, police come to the conclusion that their suspect is hunting for men at gay bars in NYC’s West Village. They decide that Steve Burns fits a similar profile to the victims, and he’s then sent deep undercover in the S&M and leather scene in West Village and the Meatpacking District, trying to find the killer.
Burns moves into an apartment and becomes friends with a young gay neighbour. Burns’ undercover works starts to place a large amount of stress on his relationship with his girlfriend, at the same time as his neighbour develops relationship issues with his boyfriend.
Burns begins to suspect a waiter at a nearby restaurant, and gets the police to interrogate him. This results in a physically forced confession, which is overturned after finding out that the waiter’s fingerprints don’t match that of the killer. Shaken, Burns almost quits the force, but his boss convinces him to stay on the job. He then comes to suspect a graduate student, but after his neighbour turns up mutilated and murdered, the police decide to take his boyfriend into custody. The movie comes to a close, but not without an ambiguous finale that implies a more sinister possibility.
“Does a riveting job of exploring an authentic subculture.”
— Roger Ebert
“It remains a hard-edged experience that’s not a million miles away from Argento’s most bloodthirsty and sexualised giallo flicks.”
— David Graham, Eye For Film
“Like Friedkin’s other unfairly maligned film of the era, Sorcerer, it has only improved with age. But be warned: to fully appreciate this film, you should be prepared to see it several times – and it remains a roller coaster ride straight into hell.”
— Lee Pfeiffer, Cinema Retro
Did You Know?
Protests plagued the production of the film Cruising as many in the gay community thought it was trying to portray them in a bad light. However, the true story of the production of the film is far more interesting; director William Friedkin cast radiologist Paul Bateson in his 1973 thriller The Exorcist. In 1979, while planning on adapting the novel “Cruising”, based on real-life murders of gay men in the West Village, Bateson is imprisoned for life after killing the gay film critic Addison Verrill. Friedkin decided to pay him a visit to get a better profile of the psyche of the hypothetical killer, and at that time, Bateson intimated that he was actually responsible for the “body bag killings”. He was never charged for these crimes, however. Review our Gay Themed Films Here