Cruising

Cruising ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Reviled upon release and generally forgotten up until its more recent critical reappraisal, Cruising is downright experimental for a mainstream cop thriller. Its depiction of leather bars and gay sex in a 40-year old R-rated movie is surprisingly graphic, certainly used for a certain level of shock value aimed at a more conservative culture, but refreshingly frank and honest nonetheless. It positions itself as a mystery to catch a killer, but then goes about making a hell of a mess of all its clues and structure, centered on a protagonist the film steadfastly refuses to develop, becoming kind of incoherent in its last act. Friedkin had dabbled previously with enigmatic editing in The Exorcist and Sorcerer, deleting or rearranging important information in order to bore out fresh question marks in the narrative, but here he has crafted an entirely open-ended dead end, a vacuum. The details don’t add up. The killer is played by different actors in different scenes, all noticeably NOT the guy who is pegged as the killer at the end, but always dubbed over by the same menacing voice the credits list as “the voice of Jack” (Jack being the killer's father, who is dead). They never explain what the killer’s scary rhyme is about, but Al Pacino, dressed just like the killer, somehow knows it at the end, unprompted. This movie is fucking creepy.

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