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Cruising – 1980 Friedkin
- Cruising is a difficult film to remove the story surrounding the film: the controversy, the sensationalizing, the subject matter.
- Cruising marks the promising pairing of William Friedkin (who wasn’t riding quite as high in 1980 as he was in the early part of the 1970s with The French Connection and The Exorcist) and Al Pacino (not exactly white-hot himself anymore like he was either). Sadly, this was not the bounce back film either of them were hoping for heading into the new decade.
- It is 16-minutes before Pacino shows up—and the premise is he’s going undercover (this is Serpico after all) working with his chief (a great, bags-under-his-eyes Paul Sorvino) to catch a serial killer. The serial killer is killing homosexual men in the underground leather S&M bar scene in New York City.
- This catches the adorable Karen Allen after Animal House (1978) and before Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Powers Boothe is in a small role, too.
- The actual murder mystery is engaging. Friedkin does seem to turn into an opportunist trying to shock his audience with the seediness of this underworld. And there are moments that are entirely Razzie-worthy—like Pacino’s fast-motion photography dance scene from the 48–50 minute mark. Friedkin makes another misstep with the silly iris in on Pacino (facing away from the camera, stalking a suspect) at the 71-minute mark. He uses the iris to make sure we all know this is Pacino’s character—insulting.
- There is noteworthy reading of the film as Pacino’s character Steve Burns as a repressed homosexual himself. He stops coming on to Allen as he gets more involved with the undercover role.
- What Friedkin does do well in Cruising is create atmosphere and setting. This is a dingy New York City- there’s graffiti, garbage, and the night scenes, in particular, are impressively fixed with low lighting and a sort of bluish hue. The two shots above display an admirable consistency– and the park bench frame is a marvelous cinematic painting.
- The finale is also captivating- it is ambiguous, there is the epilogue with the murdered neighbor and the mirror scene shot to close.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1980—it is far from a disaster, but certainly no long lost masterpiece either.