A serial killer is on the loose, murdering people involved in New York’s gay S&M scene. Det. Steve Burns is sent undercover into the world of leather bars and bondage to try and find the killer, but discovers that immersing himself in the gay subculture effects him more than he expected.
Not many movies get picketed while they’re being made, but Cruising did. Many gay people felt the whole thing was derogatory and portrayed gay men as violent, perverted freaks and so they turned up to the set to try to disrupt filming. The result was that the filmmakers had to add a legend to the opening of the movie saying it wasn’t meant as an indictment of gay people. However whether it is or not is still tough to work out.
The movie does in some ways make it seem as if being gay is disturbing and freakish, but that’s largely because all it explores is a particularly violent and subversive aspect of it. The ending particularly is difficult as it could be seen an extreme take on the nature versus nurture debate, playing with the idea of whether hanging around certain gay people won’t just make you gay, it could make you a killer too!
Underneath the controversy is a very effective movie, which is both a disturbing serial killer flick and also a psychological trip into the world of a man losing himself in New York’s leather bar scene. Whilst not the most expansive DVD package, the two featurettes are very interesting. While ‘The History Of Cruising’ takes a retrospective look at the making of the film, ‘Exorcising Cruising’ focuses on the protests and demonstrations that happened during filming as well as some of the more technical aspects of the film. Cruising is still a difficult movie, but it’s one of those films that packs a punch and certainly gets you thinking.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac