March 24, 1980 12:00 PM

Appropriately framed by opening and closing shots of a garbage scow, Cruising is trash. Al Pacino seems as confused as any viewer will be in trying to make sense of his role as a rookie cop sent out to decoy a psychopathic killer of homosexuals. In Gerald Walker’s novel, the Pacino character struggles with his own repressed homosexual tendencies until they explode in violence. But director William (Exorcist) Friedkin ignores any psychological motivation in favor of graphically exploitative scenes in the sadomasochistic nether world (e.g., embarrassing symbolic shots like a knife cutting into rare steak and two lit cigarettes burning on the ground). Had gay activists not stirred such a ruckus during the filming in New York, this distasteful portrayal of gay life-styles would have been justifiably ignored. (R)

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