Unprepossessing entrance to the famous leather bar Mineshaft in New York City, scene of much of the action in the film.
What is it?
It’s an American film directed by William Friedkin and released in 1980.
And it’s about cruising?
Yeah, both police cruising in their cars and gay men cruising the leather bars of New York. A serial killer is on the loose in the gay community and the detective in charge of the case brings in a young policeman (Al Pacino) to go undercover and find the killer.
An interesting premise. So this guy has to come off as gay, obviously. Is he?
No, he has a girlfriend and everything. But he does a good acting job, and he makes a very cute gay guy! Actually, one thing I couldn’t quite figure out: there’s no indication that he does anything much with any of the guys he meets, but it seems to stretch credulity that such a hot guy could cruise the bars for weeks and not have men coming on to him all the time, and if he’s putting them all off, that would arouse suspicion.
Yeah, you’d think. But one often has to suspend disbelief with this kind of film. And maybe there’s a lot happening offscreen. But does the film work?
Kinda. I mean, it’s watchable, suspenseful, well acted, with some unexpected twists.
But you’re not sold.
No. After being wildly enthusiastic about a previous Friedkin film about gay life, I was keen to see this one, but it was a big disappointment. The script is seriously flawed, and the film flirts with ambiguities that are never really explored. For instance, there’s an indication that the Pacino character is getting a bit too into the S&M scene, but this isn’t really developed in any meaningful way. And overall, the portrayal of the gay scene is extremely dark and scary. There is one nice, sweet gay guy in the film, and it appears he’s the counterbalance to all the violence. But then he ends up murdered by his pathologically jealous boyfriend. So, in the end, there’s really no hope.
Yeah, I’m very reluctantly giving it one. Despite this film’s many shortcomings, it does offer a grown-up look at a particular niche of LGBT life. That said, be warned: it’s depressing, confusing, and a bit too close to reality sometimes.