'Cruising: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1980) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Academy Award-winner William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) directs Al Pacino as an undercover cop pitched into New York's seedy underbelly in 'Cruising' - available for the first time on Blu-ray in a brand new director-approved transfer.
Blu-ray Verdict: Body parts are being found in the Hudson River and there have already been two recorded homosexual murders that show signs of being done by the same killer.
With no leads in the case, Captain Edelson offers Officer Steve Burns the chance to go undercover on the basis that Steve looks similar to the victims that the killer tends to pick.
Steve goes undercover with no badge and no gun, only reporting to Edelson; meanwhile the murders continue as Steve begins to lose himself little by little.
I had never seen this film until just a few weeks ago but I was looking forward to it now that it was here on Blu-ray for review.
The film opens with a similar enough premise: cop goes undercover to try and catch a killer. We have all seen this genre before and think we know where it is going to go - cop will start to `go native' gradually and will struggle with it even after he has caught the killer - right?
Well, yes and no. The film tries to do this but it manages to make a real pigs ear of it throughout, coming across like it really didn't know what it wanted to do.
In truth, the film is all over the place. Burns' investigation goes nowhere for the vast majority of the time and just seems to focus on gay clubs with lots of men in leather or jock straps.
Meanwhile the killer continues to carry out his murders and the rest of the police sort of float around in the background.
For the most part it is rather difficult to really get into the film because the narrative is so very disjointed and it is almost impossible to have anything to follow or care about: basically the first 90 minutes is `There's a guy out there killing and a cop going to gay clubs - oh, look what they do!'
And then the final 20 minutes is `Oh, we got him now' - and that's it! So with no traditional narrative I assume that the film wanted us to follow the character of Steve.
However, Steve is a nonentity, even being played by Pacino! He has no "character" and we see nothing to suggest that he is really being either attracted or repulsed by the life he sees.
The end of the film is so open in regards him and just doesn't make sense for the most part, sorry! With these two threads going nowhere, all that remains is a film that looks at the gay scene in the city.
In this regard I was worried that it was going to be all PC when the film opening with a disclaimer that I assume was put on to placate gay groups.
However I immediately understood why the makers had put this caption onto the film - and it wasn't even enough! The homosexuals in this film are, to a man, deviants who all hang out in clubs having anonymous sex with multiple partners in clubs and parks.
I know the film apologizes for this but it doesn't excuse the sheer lazy clichés that it wheels out and seems to just hope that we are shocked by the repeated graphic image.
The seedy nature of the film means that it hasn't lost it's shock ability (even with gay relationships no longer a taboo in the media or normal life) - but if this is all it has then it is hardly worth it.
If director Friedkin had a vision then it has been lost because there is no sign of life in this film as by the end of the film everyone seems to have given up on it and it just, well, grinds to a halt.
I won't even go into the various threads that just seem to go nowhere - DiSimone turning up all over the place for no reason being just one of them!
Pacino is a great actor but he cannot do anything with a character he cannot understand. He is absent from the film and is given nothing to work with.
Certainly the slow burn he is required to do is not fitting his style, but it is made harder considering the script doesn't know about Steve either and Pacino has nothing to build to.
Sorvino is OK but has nothing to do, likewise Allen is just floating around as well. The only thing that really kept my interest was how many famous faces were in early roles here - Powers Booth, Mike Starr, Spinell and Weeks to name but a few.
Overall I was looking forward to this film and wanted to enjoy it. I was not let down, sure, I'll admit that on a higher level of the screenplay, but when it failed to do the usual things I expected from the genre set-up, well, it was then I was let down (by the fact that Friedkin did nothing else with it).
The plot is all over the place and the performances are poor simply because they have no characters. Steve is impossible to understand and every gay character is a cliché.
An amazingly inept film when you consider the names attached to it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, supervised and approved by writer-director William Friedkin
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Newly remastered 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio supervised by William Friedkin
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Archival audio commentary by William Friedkin
The History of Cruising – archival featurette looking at the film’s origins and production
Exorcizing Cruising – archival featurette looking at the controversy surrounding the film and its enduring legacy
Original Theatrical Trailer
'Cruising' Original Movie Trailer