Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is a New York police officer. He is young, handsome and has a great girlfriend called Nancy (Karen Allen). Steve has aspirations to get higher up in the NYPD and wants to be a detective. He is informed by his captain, (Paul Sorvino), that dismembered body parts are turning up around the city and that someone is murdering young gay men using S&M methods. Steve is asked by his captain if he’ll go undercover into the gay club scene to catch the killer, as he fits the victim profile. Steve is told that going undercover will help his chances of becoming a detective, so he accepts.
Steve begins to trawl the gay nightclubs and leather bars looking for anyone that could be the killer. As he delves deeper and deeper into the seedy world of sex he begins to doubt his abilities to continue as he feels the job is changing him. You get the impression here that his character is fighting his own sexuality. The reaction to the murders from Steve’s colleagues also prompts Steve to think twice about continuing, plus the fact that he never gets to see his girlfriend Nancy.
The face of the killer is never revealed. He just whistles a tune and sings “who’s here…..I’m here”. There are clues later on as to who the killer could or couldn’t be, so it’s definitely worth paying attention. I did hear from William Friedkin who is the director that the film was heavily cut, so this does have an effect on the narrative as you feel some information may be missing. There is also a disclaimer at the start of the movie as some gay men found the film very offensive, though there are many people that do like the movie. The film is very ambiguous in places, leaving you to decide as to the identity of the killer.
The film is pretty full on. The scenes in the clubs are very explicit. This is down to the fact that Friedkin filmed in the real clubs around the meat packing district in New York, so the background extras are real club goers doing what they’d normally do. If the subject matter of this movie makes you uncomfortable, then steer clear. If however, like me, you are an open minded film fan and like to try new movies out, then jump in. I would recommend it to most people. As far as I know there are no plans for an uncut/extended release, so you’ll have to make do with this one. Enjoy!