Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Utter Failure of High Concept

May 29th, 2009 · 2 Comments


For today’s installment of Bad Movie Friday, we’d like to shred a flick that must’ve seemed so great when William Friedkin pitched it: Cruising, a murder mystery that’s several degrees clumsier than the worst Encyclyopedia Brown shortie.

Now we can see why this got made. The milieu (the gay leather-bar scene) was ultra-edgy at the time, and, hey, Al Pacino doing his Serpico thing. But, alas, the result is pure ham-fisted dullsville, featuring Pacino in full scenery-chewing mode. (Check out his inhalant-inspired, slightly NSFW moves above.) Cruising got a lot of flack for its portrayal of gay New Yorkers as chaps-wearing Caligulas. But the deeper problem here is the nonsensical plotting. Follow the logic, if you dare:

*Pacino is sent undercover into the world of gay bars to find a killer—a killer who opens the film by offing a Columbia professor.
*An hour-plus elapses. Nothing much happens, except lots of gratuitous shots of stabbings and dudes in black leather. Snooze…
*Paul Sorvino’s police captain gives Pacino a Columbia yearbook and says, “Hey, you recognize anyone in here?”
*Pacino does! And he spends the next 30 minutes following this killer, who turns out to be (SPOILER ALERT!)…some random Columbia student with daddy issues.

Question: Why not give Pacino the Columbia yearbook when he started the job, so he could keep an eye peeled for potential suspects? Huh? That would have shaved an hour off the running time, and made the film tolerable. True, it would also have made it just 48 minutes long. But that’s really all the idea merited.

On the plus side, we did like seeing Pacino get decked by a macho gay cowboy. As in that The Godfather scene where he gets punched by the crooked cop, Pacino knows how to take a beatdown.

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