Tuesday, October 18, 2011
A serial killer is on the loose, preying on gay men he picks up at S&M clubs. The NYPD send in an undercover cop (Al Pacino) to cruise the gay scene and see if he can smoke out the killer.
I already wrote extensively on Cruising a few years ago, and I don't have much to add to my original thoughts except that I liked it even more this time. It has the trappings of a more run of the mill serial killer thriller (with the admittedly unorthodox-for-its-time gay themes), but leave it to William Friedkin to strip out all the usual structure, thrills and resolution, leaving a weird, sparse work of profound ambiguity. The story is disjointed, the hero is held at arm's length, tantalizing plot threads lead nowhere, the mystery is never satisfactorily resolved to the degree where it's heavily implied (but never clearly answered) that the hero might be the killer, or at least one of several killers. The film is dark and unknowable.
Also, awesome. It's more of a mood piece exploring some odd themes, scoring chills not through tightly crafted suspense sense but through revealing in the creepy mysteriousness of everything. One of the things that really threw me the first time I saw Cruising is that it seems to set up this identity crisis for Pacino's character but then never really explores it or resolves it. It's not clear what's up with him, whether his work disgusts him or turns him on or what. But now I think that maybe the film just externalizes his identity crisis. Cops and gays start becoming a fluid concept in the world of the film. There are cops sexually assaulting trannies, a cop-themed gay S&M club, cops employing large black men in ass-less chaps to slap suspects around, even the title is a double meaning applying to both cops and gays... what the hell is going on with this movie sexually? Exactly.