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Cruising (1980)

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A police detective goes undercover in the underground S&M gay subculture of New York City to catch a serial killer who is preying on gay men.

Director:

William Friedkin

Writers:

William Friedkin, Gerald Walker (novel)
5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Al Pacino ... Steve Burns
Paul Sorvino ... Capt. Edelson
Karen Allen ... Nancy
Richard Cox ... Stuart Richards
Don Scardino ... Ted Bailey
Joe Spinell ... Patrolman DiSimone
Jay Acovone ... Skip Lee
Randy Jurgensen ... Det. Lefransky
Barton Heyman ... Dr. Rifkin
Gene Davis ... DaVinci
Arnaldo Santana Arnaldo Santana ... Loren Lukas
Larry Atlas Larry Atlas ... Eric Rossman
Allan Miller ... Chief of Detectives
Sonny Grosso Sonny Grosso ... Det. Blasio
Ed O'Neill ... Det. Schreiber (as Edward O'Neil)
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Storyline

A serial killer brutally slays and dismembers several gay men in New York's S&M and leather districts. The young police officer Steve Burns is sent undercover onto the streets as decoy for the murderer. Working almost completely isolated from his department, he has to learn and practice the complex rules and signals of this little society. While barely seeing his girlfriend Nancy anymore, the work starts changing him. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Al Pacino is Cruising for a killer.


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

West Germany | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 February 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

William Friedkin's Cruising See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$11,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$19,798,718, 31 December 1995
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joe Spinell played with Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II (1974). See more »

Goofs

The close up of the last body, you can clearly see his heartbeat in his neck for a few seconds. See more »

Quotes

[repeated line]
Stuart Richards: You made me do that.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film only opens with the title in large letters, across the screen. It is only at the end where the filmmakers are credited. See more »

Alternate Versions

The French version contains an extra shot during the opening credits of the film: a wall marked with graffiti depicting homosexuals having sex and holding hands, with an inscription below the drawing saying, "We Are EVERYWHERE!!" See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Windows (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Three-Day Moon
Performed by Barre Phillips
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

One of the first great horror films of the 80s
28 June 2009 | by tonymurphyleeSee all my reviews

A deranged serial killer is on the loose and is killing patrons of gay S&M clubs. Officer Steve Burns(Al Pacino) is chosen by the chief of police to go undercover as a gay male and find this mad man. The idea of going undercover, to Burns, at first sounds simple enough. However, this new bizarre world he has become a part of slowly begins to affect his mind and his psyche as he begins to question many things about himself and what he thought that he was before. Before he was simply just playing a role, but soon his work completely takes over his life as he becomes a part of the gay underground world.

William Friedkin's early-80s shocker, CRUISING, has been called one of the most despicable and offensive films ever to be put out by a major motion picture studio. It's been voted as one of the most homophobic films ever made, along with Paul Verhoeven's trash classic BASIC INSTINCT and Gaspar Noe's experimental revenge thriller IRREVERSIBLE. While I can certainly understand where the hatred for this film is coming from, I still find it to be a very effective and haunting piece of film-making.

I found the scenes involving Al Pacino at the clubs to be so full of realism and so raw that, at times, it was difficult to watch. These scenes are where the true horror of the film come to life. So much of what he sees disturbs him and, indeed, it disturbs us as well. The several glimpses of public sex(oral sex, anal sex, fisting, BDSM, etc) in these leather clubs are stomach churning in how different the world of these places are to everyday life.

The whole film is quite disturbing and fascinating to watch all the same, but the explicit nature of the scenes, as well as Al Pacino's reaction to them, give the film a real documentary-like sense of realism. The scenes in which the serial killer strikes are equally disturbing in their realism. They come off extraordinary in the blunt and heartless way they are shown. The fact that multiple frames of gay pornography are spliced into the gory violence further makes clear the idea of the knife penetrating the body and, at the same time, will probably raise a few eyebrows from many folks who are offended at such gestures.

Indeed, this is definitely a film that tends to be gleefully tasteless at times. I am certainly not surprised that many folks found the film so offensive. The gay lifestyle is not depicted in a particularly positive light. Most of the gay characters in the film are either perverted, violent, rude, or insane. The sole gay character who seems to be a shining light of purity is Pacino's neighbor in the film, Ted Bailey (Don Scardino) a rather young and sweet-natured writer who is terrified of the leather bars. Ted is the one lamb in the crowd of vicious billy goats, so to speak.

Despite the Ted character and despite the raw visual style of the film, the scenes of actual police procedure come of a tad weak when juxtapose with the scenes in the leather bars. While they do have just as much an uncanny realism to them as the undercover scenes, they feel a bit lifeless and ugly. In addition, Karen Allen in the role of Pacino's wife comes off slightly overshadowed alongside the other bizarre and interesting characters in the film. Despite this, however, she does help make the climax of the film far more terrifying and shocking.

Despite the homophobia and despite the flaws, CRUISING is a fascinating film. It remains one of the darkest and most challenging mainstream films I've ever seen. I loved the realism of the film and I loved how shocking the last hour was in particular. It is definitely a film that works! While I can't say that I would be able to fully stomach a second viewing, I can safely say that it is a film that will affect you whether you love it or hate it. You will not forget this film very easily.


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