Thanks to Warner Archive’s new manufactured-on-demand pressing, this represents my first time to catch Cruising, and I was willing to give Friedkin the benefit of the doubt. But wow — even a straight, open-minded man as myself can see how offensive this film is to the gay community. His Oscar success with The French Connection and The Exorcist must have rendered Friedkin delusional.
Immersing himself in the world of color-coordinated hankies and clubs with names like The Cock Pit, cop Al Pacino goes undercover in black leather to find the serial murderer the press has dubbed “the Homo Killer.” There’s a genuine mystery at play, but Friedkin trots out every stereotype on the unwritten list: assless chaps, S&M, wrestling magazines, nightstick fondling, “water sports,” a muscular African-American wearing only a cowboy hat and jockstrap, et al.
Unlike his finest films (last year’s Killer Joe included), the unintentionally campy Cruising won’t enjoy enduring cinematic life. It’s worth watching as a massive misfire, and Warner Archive’s near-deluxe treatment ports the original DVD’s 40-minute featurette and Friedkin’s commentary. —Rod Lott