Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 45


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,196
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Movie Info

A New York City cop goes undercover in New York's gay community to catch a serial killer.

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Critic Reviews for Cruising

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (11)

  • The principal complaint, artistically, about Cruising is that it is not very clear at the rudimentary level of exposition of character and event. The problem... is in a script that never seems sure enough what it wants to say or prove.

    Apr 29, 2019 | Full Review…
  • William Friedkin's Cruising is a work of art.

    Apr 27, 2018 | Full Review…
  • What we're left with is a movie without the courage to declare itself.

    Jun 9, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • This detective melodrama has something to offend almost everyone.

    Jun 9, 2014 | Full Review…
  • What's left is the framework for a graphic, brutal, sickening film, without the violent effects that might have made sense (however illegitimate) out of the conception.

    Jun 9, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Taking away the kissing, caressing and a few bloody killings, Friedkin has no story, though picture pretends to be a murder mystery combined with a study of Al Pacino's psychological degradation.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Cruising

  • May 18, 2013
    Interesting film -- if for no other reason than to see gay stereotypes from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Bold role for Paccino, played convincingly.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 01, 2012
    With the 80's explosion of homosexuality in the mainstream, director William Friedkin set out to explore the tension that consumed New York during this time. How a fear of the "other" during this anxious period, so easily manifest itself as hate. Now, what I just described above, is fodder for a great film. Unfortunately, Friedkin's final product "Cruising", isn't that great film. It often forgoes the dark and compelling for the shocking and exploitative. Friedkin seems to lend as much grace and finesse to this subject that he clearly has a cursory knowledge of. Meaning of course, he lends incredibly little.What the viewer gets in essence is a clunky gay horror film in which a hesitant Pacino slowly becomes immersed in a seedy realm of the subversive gay world. It's filmed in such a way that it feels like a gay Rome, replete with an all-consuming plague like hedonism that is meant to appall. I mean, why else would Friedkin go to such lengths to make sure the viewer gets treated a nice long fisting scene? Friedkin cuts together shots of a knife being thrust into a man's back with others of a penis being plunged into a man's butt. It is hard to not feel like Friedkin is grimly equating murder with homosexuality. This is even furthered by a certain scene in which blood is seen spurting, ejaculating, on the screen in a theater that plays gay porn. The acts of these deviants are drenched in the blood of countless men. In fact, Friedkin seems so intent on wanting to shock that he ends up not really saying anything of substance. He really only succeeds in propagating stereotypes, fear, and that if a black man in a cowboy hat and jockstrap walks into a room with you, it would behoove you to walk out. I find Friedkin to be one of the more fascinating figures in American cinematic history. When he hits it, he cranks it out of the park. When he misses, he not only wastes a good opportunity, he also seems to throw his shoulder out in the process. It is no wonder that after a disaster like this, it has been an uphill battle just getting himself back in the game.
    Reid V Super Reviewer
  • Apr 18, 2012
    "Cruising" gives me mixed feelings. Friedkin's direction is superb and his entire production reeks of style, but the script is disappointingly weak. The plot is muddled, characters are paper thin, and there are a couple of instances where I had no idea what was going on at all. Also, people complain about the film's frustratingly ambiguous ending. Well, I would have had more of a problem with it if I had cared about the Pacino character at all, which I didn't. Overall, "Cruising" is a decent cop thriller that has that dark and sinister look of films to come like "Se7en," but it is completely forgettable.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Oct 15, 2010
    William Friedkin's dark, highly controversial lurid thriller about an undercover cop named Steve Burns, compellingly played by Al Pacino in low-key understated performance, who goes underground into the gay S&M leather subculture of New York City during the pre-AIDS early 80s to try and catch a sadistic serial-killer of homosexual men. Burns who is straight goes deep cover as a gay man and a decoy for the murderer, he is completely isolated from the police department and his only contact is his superior Captain Edelson, superbly played by Paul Sorvino. He cannot even tell is girlfriend, nicely played by Nancy Alien, about his assignment. But as the vicious murders continue Burns is starting to be affected by his exposure to the hardcore gay lifestyle and it begins to change him. Okay direction by Friedkin, who also wrote the confusing and sometimes awful screenplay which is based on the novel by Gerald Walker. Striking cinematography by James A. Contner, and a marvelous original score by the late Jack Nitzsche. The only real reason to see this film is for Al Pacino's captivating performance, otherwise this motion picture is truly a mess, but fascinating never the less. Note: This film when released in 1980 caused many gays to protest the film for it's degrading and distasteful view of the gay community. Homophobic, ambiguous, brutal and not for all tastes. Recommended.
    Danny R Super Reviewer

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