Bilal Mir’s review published on Letterboxd:
When your subculture goes from being an underground and fringe boogeyman to being swallowed up by the corporate pathology and you have companies like Raytheon and Chase Bank tweeting Happy Pride, forty year old movies like this look violently regressive. It probably sounds obtuse but I question the controversial legacy of this film. Looked at through a 2021 lens there's plenty to criticize but I wonder if Friedkin was depicting a world rather than endorsing an opinion on it. I haven't seen The Boys in the Band but it's often cited as an important film in queer cinema so it's hard for me to buy into the idea that ten years later he'd do a heel-turn and depict gay men as violent leather-clad monsters.
Does Friedkin's intention matter? Was he actually being earnest in his depiction of a counterculture? Cops seem to be portrayed with the least amount of sympathy here, shown as fascistic brutes whose only method of dealing with a serial killer affecting this community is to send one guy undercover instead of, I dunno, maybe more than one guy. Even the press's coverage is uncaring and mocking, constantly referring to him as the 'Homo Killer'.
The subtext with Pacino's character becomes abundantly clear but what about the film's message itself? Was Friedkin trying to say that just as the lifelong repression of an individual will lead to the development of an aberrated other self, society's mockery and oppression of a group will also lead to violent results?
I wonder if this film will be given a critical re-evaluation by younger generations because of its seedy depiction that any major studio or network wouldn't go near nowadays. Lacking the sleek corporate, sanitized, and family-friendly aesthetic that streaming studios have to adhere to it seems to contain a clumsy honesty to it. I could be way off base here with these questions but I'd rather see something like this than another Ryan Murphy production, or perfectly worded tweet that hits all the right notes of marketed sympathy and shareholder-approved allyship.