A tricksy riff on genre filmmaking where one admires the tawdry chutzpah whilst not being engaged by it. The heavy gloom, articulated in dour shades of blue and heavy shadow, hardly lifts and the feeling of being stranded somewhere ambiguous and unsafe is strongly realised but ultimately depresses as most vicarious thrills do - all high and little substance. Nevertheless it has a rubbernecking appeal.
If there was ever a litmus test in mainstream cinema for the open-mindedness of straight men, this is certainly it. It's not just a bleak and depressing giallo-inspired horror film, but pulls no punches in its explicitness of gay male S&M subculture. Like Pacino's character, Cruising puts your comfort level in uncharted territories. Surely more confrontational in its subversion than Friedkin's The Exorcist for many.
Tiny Pacino does the best he can with a leading character that lacks development: he was undercover for the job and for the audience, since I couldn't perceive whether he was genuinely disgusted or secretly tempted by what he saw cruising the hardcore gay underworld of NY city. The killer could have been more interesting too. However, jockstraps, leather clothes, sweat and deaths were enough to keep me entertained.
This movie was grim and depressing as hell. The production design and style really brings the horrific murder story to life and the acting, while a bit uneven, works as well. The depiction of the gay S&M-culture seems sad, desperate and volatile which probably is a sign of the times but in hindsight it feels highly speculative. Still the movie is interesting although flawed and ambigous in its plotting.
Here's the thing about Friedkin. He is, quite simply, the greatest. Or at the very least one of the greatest. And Cruising is one of his very best films. An understated but very effective performance from Pacino coupled with some bizarre surreal sequences and profoundly affecting violence, as well as being bathed in that denim blue light that Friedkin so often employs. Influences from Giallo are clear. 5 stars
Gritty, 'NYC-as-hell' thriller. This is not so much about gay culture (I WISH gay clubs played punk music and looked this fucking hot and dark) but about men/masculinity in general, almost like a queer 'Fight Club'. It is only ruined by a lame ending that would work if they had the balls to have Pacino get 'nasty' rather than just walk around as a sexless voyeur. Still all the leather and sleazy vibes are pretty hot.
I think that at the time it was difficult not to see this as a representation of gay culture, because there weren't many balanced portrayals out there. Now it's easier to see it for what it was, which was just one aspect of the culture. This was back when Pacino was still an actor, and his performance is very nuanced.
Not a bad film - Friedkin's direction is great, Pacino really displays his character's discomfort as well as his own, the inspection of the homosexual S&M scene is rather dark though not stereotypical of practices that are within such groups - but it just felt like something was missing here and there.