Were it not set in the gay underworld of its era, 1980's Cruising would be a largely unremarkable film. But provocateur William Friedkin did set it in this underworld -- a seedy, sex-filled shocker than must have had audiences in tears -- and thus it has become a cult classic, almost notorious, really.
The story is, by and large, traditional serial killer fare: Someone is stabbing gay men to death, often in lewd situations. The NYPD captain (Paul Sorvino) sends in Steve Burns (Al Pacino) undercover to ferret out the killer. The straight-edge Steve learns all about gay culture, in which pocket to put bandanas to indicate your proclivities, and so on. But by and large he's just supposed to "go out there and find the killer." But the undercover activity takes its toll on his psyche, most notably in his (non-gay) relationship with Nancy (Karen Allen, virtually the only woman in the film at all).
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