The movie "Cruising" with Al Pacino...

For anyone that has seen it, there are a few things I didn’t understand:

  1. Why did Al Pacino try to beat up the boyfriend of his gay next door neighbor he befriended while undercover? Was it because he was attracted to his friend and jealous, or because the boyfriend insinuated there was something going on between the two? Or was it intentionally ambiguous?

  2. At the end after the killer was apprehended, was that Al Pacino’s friend next door who was killed? If so was he supposed to have been killed by his boyfriend?

  3. Why was the big black police officer during the interrogations who punched Pacino while he was still undercover, naked??? :confused::confused:

I watched the movie piecemeal during breaks at work on netflix so that is possibly why I am confused about so many things.

It’s been awhile since I have seen this film, but the neighbor guy was just a nice guy and Al noticed that his neighbor’s partner was abusive and decided to give him a taste of his own medicine.
However, after all was said and done, it didn’t help and the abusive boyfriend did indeed kill the nice neighbor kid.

As far as why the black guy was nude…I oddly don’t remember that part (and you would think that would be a scene I would remember) so not sure why.

This film was wildly controversial back when it was made - many Gays in NYC tried to stop the filming of it, many protests, some boycotting of the film; not happy about the stereotypes portrayed in the film.

I kinda liked it - and it was cool to see all the bars where I used to hang out when I lived there.

Will have to catch it next time it is on cable to see how the film has aged over time.

The black guy was supposedly based on real police tactics at the time when trying to intimidate a gay suspect into confessing, the implication being that I guess he will sexually assault the suspect if he doesn’t spill. You’d think this would intimidate straight guys too but shrug.

What I want to know was WTF was with the shocker reveal of the girlfriend donning the hat and glasses and striking the facial expression of the killer.:eek:

This is after it is strongly suggested Pachino’s character might be the killer, at the least there had to be a second killer.

I have decided the whole film is REALLY about a deeply closeted man and his struggling with that and coming to terms with it, which is why the film is so surreal and dreamlike and the dialog so wonky and full of sexual innuendo.

Likewise, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. But IIRC, the cops simply chalked up tne nice neighbor’s death to the abusive boyfriend. It was not definitely proven, and was strongly implied that Pacino’s character actually killed him.

The implication being that Pacino’s character has either had repressed gay feelings awakened, or been “turned gay” by contact with the gay underworld. And hence turned into a copycat of the very killer he was seeking. The inherent message being that mere exposure to gays will awaken violent, sadistic tendencies and that no one involved with the the culture is safe from a nasty end.

Personally, I completely empathized with the protestors who sought to sabotage it. I felt this movie was repugnant, bigoted and viscous. Everybody involved has either tried to distance themselves from it, or talked rings & rings to try to justify it by claiming it wasn’t “really” that bad. Well it was that bad. This movie was on par with “Birth of a Nation” in it’s level of bigotry (if not level of film-making skill.)

I believe it is very clear the protagonist at the very least is bi curious before going undercover, the film doesn’t make sense any other way so no he wasn’t turned gay. Its hard to evaluate the second claim since it is never made clear WTF is actually going on, whether he was the killer all along and its a Fight Club movie or what.

But I don’t know how you can argument the movie is bigoted or anti-gay, its simply not supported by what is on screen. The cops are routinely portrayed as bigoted idiots and closet cases, from the scene where the protag is assigned to the interrogation scene, how about the scene where the police rape some gay guys coming out of a club while a murder is happening down the street?(the cops hurl abuse at a couple of guys and use threats to get blowjobs).

On the other hand the film is unflinching when showing the fetish sex clubs the protag hangs out at, no attempt is made to pretty things up for a mainstream audience. But the clubs are only the killers hunting ground, not representative of the gay community as a whole.

EDIT:Forgot to add the director is openly gay.


…Billy Friedkin isn’t gay.

Yea I was wrong sorry, I know it was brought up in a discussion of the film I read somewhere perhaps the IMDB message board for the movie, take everything you read with a grain of salt eh :slight_smile:

But I really don’t see how the case can be made that Cruising is a bigoted hateful film, from the same director that made Boys In The Band. I mentioned in another thread I was shocked how far Cruising went, and could easily see why it was a bomb(I imagine if you made the film in 2012 you would have massive walk outs, much less 1980). BITB also has some elements you could be critical of from a modern perspective, but it was probably groundbreaking at the time.

A bit of historical footnote - Cruising was released just when the novel The Lure by Felice Picano had become a huge, international hit book in the Gay community.
Both had very similar themes - undercover in the NYC leather clubs to find serial killer.

The Lure was a far superior work, and unfortunately for the filmmakers, Cruising was (unfairly?) compared to that book at the time. Then again, many thought the film really was a total rip-off of the book, just poorly written and without the more satisfying end of the book.

You’re kidding, right? I don’t know how you can NOT see the homophobia in this film. The fact that the killer shoves a knife into a gay guys’ back while coldly stating “You MADE me do this! This is YOUR fault”? The fact that no other facet of gay life other than the sleaziest of S&M bars is depicted? The fact that, as the NY Times critic pointed out, “There is a monster in 'Cruising” and the monster is gay life itself."

Vito Russo’s book “the Celluloid Closet” outlines a lot of the ways the movie stylistically depicts gay life as bad, and heterosexuality as normal & good. One example is the scenes in which Pacino visits his girlfriend Karen Allen’s apartment - there is warm, soft lighting, brilliant colors and a recording of a string quartet playing in the background - signifying how his straight relationship is calm, romantic and soothing, while every moment Pacino (or anybody else for that matter) is in a gay situation, it is squalid, filthy, ugly & harsh. These are coincidences.

The gay sex is not “toned down”, but it never depicted as anything other than freakish, disgusting and vile. It’s something for the presumably straight movie-going audience to gawk at and ridicule like a carnival geek. Made for the same audience that went to “gross out” horror films like “I Spit Upon Your Grave” and “Cannibal Holocaust.”

As for Friedkin directing “Boys In the Band”, check out the documentary Making the Boys that deals with the history of the play / movie. Everyone connected with “Boys In the Band” either saw their careers hindered by their association with it, or made definite strides to distance themselves from it as much as possible. Even ten years after the film was out of theaters, the actors were ordered by film producers to remove the credit from their resumes. Friedkin was no better.

I’ve not seen the movie but I have read the book, and the book didn’t come across as having an anti-gay agenda at all (far from it). It DID go to lengths to point out the rampant homophobia of the cop asked to go undercover, and the police force in general who weren’t really interested in the deaths of the gay men being killed. It sounds like there is some ambiguity about who the killer is in the film, whereas the book features the killer’s perspective every third chapter, so you know who he is and that he isn’t the undercover cop. Furthermore there is no girlfriend to contrast to, that whole subplot was added to the film. Finally the film messed around with the next door neighbour - he was in the book as a gay character that the undercover cop befriends and starts to relate to (at one point he thinks “nice guy, for a queer”, showing his thought process on this), but the neighbour has no boyfriend.

The ending of the book makes clear the killer was a guy who was using murder to try and attack the gay inside himself (hence why his victims looked like him), but after his arrest the cop’s neighbour is found dead with semen in his mouth, which is not the original killer’s MO as he would lure the victims into sexual situations but kill them before anything happened. The book doesn’t state this explicitly, but we’re left to conclude that the cop, put into a position of living the gay life, has actually indulged and then reacted the same way the original killer did - murder the victim to expunge the act/desire. This builds on a scene in the book (don’t know if it’s in the film) where the undercover cop ends up acting as bait to what he thinks might be the killer, and ends up killing him in what he thinks is self defence, only to realise to his horror after that he’s just killed another undercover cop on the same mission as him (clearly, he doesn’t confess this to anyone, and the guilt weighs heavily on him.

So whilst the film cruising might be deeply homophobic, the originally story in the book was a very good exploration of the difficult relationship that straight men in the 70s might have with any same sex desire they might have, and the lengths that might drive them to (it’s also a product of its time, many people DID consider gays as practically a subspecies at that point, something the book clearly is challenging). Hopefully that makes the context a bit clearer.

I always thought Pacino was the killer. Just the way it ended. It’s been awhile since I seen it though and only saw it once.

In the movie Pacino never displays any homophobia, and in fact he tells his boss that he doesn’t want to see people get roughed up in interrogation rooms just because they’re gay. It sounds like the book makes more sense than the movie, then.

Does kinda hint that Pacino is actually gay, and when he keeps going to gay bars after the case is over that is a dead giveaway. For this, some think he is the killer. He’s not really going to the gay scene still because he’s gay, he’s going to kill his next victim. At least that’s what I think.

The scenes with his girlfriend seem to me to show the sexual conflict Pachino’s character is feeling, at first he comes home from the fetish bars and roughly fucks her to prove his masculinity or something. That is clearly the point of the scenes, not showing proper hetero relationships.

Your second point could apply to all film thrillers, are you complaining that a film plays up sensational aspects?! Do you think a thriller about a killer stalking hetero fetish clubs and a cop going undercover to catch him would sensibly represent heterosexuality?

Why does Cruising have to represent the gay community as a whole? Its a sensational thriller about a serial killer stalking men at underground fetish clubs, with a healthy dose of subtext about Pachino’s character questioning his sexuality. Its not a documentary on gay life in NYC in 1980.

I think critics were right in saying that one of the few mainstream movies to showcase the gay community back then should’ve taken more responsibility for their subject, especially such a persecuted one?

You and I probably can look at the movie in hindsight and see some of the ridiculousness, but for someone in a flyover state back in 1980 this might be their first impression of what the gay community is like…and nothing about it was flattering.

There’s basically one forgettable line about how one of the victims was into “heavy leather” at the beginning of the movie and then the rest of the movie is silent on the fact that this was an extreme, extreme niche of the gay community and also that there are hetereo parallels to that same behavior.

edit: And also there is the overt suggestion that being “around the gay” too much will cause you to catch it, which if you think about it is not only ridiculous, but a very dangerous suggestion.

It sounds that the film diverted from the book by adding the fetish scene - that wasn’t in the book. However the book was pretty blunt in its presentation of men having sex in parks and bathhouses (this is all pre-HIV of course). So whilst the book wasn’t trying to make gay life seem palatable, I don’t think, it sounds like the film wanted to go for a particular subculture and hit home on that. Not clear why, what was included in the book would have been sufficient in my mind.