Cruising

Cruising ★★★

Hugely controversial for its time and partially redeemed since as an “incoherent text,” this William Friedkin slasher and proto-serial killer thriller is a great example of Hollywood’s perpetual inability to grapple with outsider cultures. On the one hand, it offers a heteronormative-centric worst case scenario for life as a gay man in the late 1970s. On the other it’s surprisingly canny about the tyranny of straight prejudice and power. And then there’s the filmmaking, which is by turns boldly stylistic—it offers a richly textured aesthetic that is the precursor for countless Michael Bay and Tony Scott movies—while also lazily formulaic—the crux of its story is a pro forma “undercover cop gets in too deep” premise. Hollywood just didn’t know what to do with this material, and Friedkin copes by bringing both the best and worst of his skills to bear. The end result is underwhelming as a narrative but fascinating as an historical document.

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