Cruising (1980)

Rewatching for my The Complete Pacino list.

Controversial when it first appeared, with objections from gay rights activists disrupting filming and the censors forcing huge edits, this now plays as a very interesting but confusing story.

At first it appears to be the attempt of an undercover cop (Pacino) to find a killer who has been murdering gay men from New York’s S&M nightclubs. But part way through, we start to question how far the police officer is prepared to go to find the perpetrator, and then begin to wonder if he isn’t uncovering something more deeply personal about himself instead. By the time we reach the end, we’re actually not sure of anything at all, not even if the correct criminal has been apprehended.

Perhaps these elements of confusion are deliberate, intended to match Pacino’s character’s personal confusion. But to me it felt like we needed a little less ambiguity, or at least a commitment to whether the crime solving or personal revelations were the main focus. I suspect this may have been lost in the editing, which is a real shame.

Nevertheless, Pacino’s performance is very good, as he evolves from a generic patrol cop to something much more internalised and dark.

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