American Gigolo is a 1980 crime drama film, written and directed by Paul Schrader. It is informally considered the second installment in his "lonely man" trilogy, following the Martin Scorsese directed Taxi Driver (1976) and preceding Light Sleeper (1992).
Julian Kaye (Richard Gere) is a male prostitute in Los Angeles whose job supports his expensive taste in cars, stereophonic equipment, and clothes. He is, at times, blatantly narcissistic and superficial; however, he claims to take some pleasure in his work from being able to sexually satisfy women. When on an assignment for his primary procuress, Anne (Nina Van Pallandt), he meets Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton), the unhappy wife of a local politician, who becomes interested in him. Julian's other pimp, Leon (Bill Duke), sends him to the house of a financier, Mr. Rheiman, who asks Julian to physically abuse and copulate with his wife while he watches them. As Julian begins to get to know Michelle, he learns that the financier's wife, Mrs. Rheiman, was murdered. Los Angeles Police Department Detective Sunday (Hector Elizondo) investigates Julian as a primary suspect. Though he was with a client, Lisa Williams (K Callan), on the night of the murder, the client refuses to give Julian an alibi in order to protect her and her husband's reputations. As Julian's relationship with Michelle deepens, suspicion of the murder mounts against him. He soon realizes that he is being framed and grows increasingly desperate. His decline is visually represented by a degeneration in style as his clothes become rumpled, he goes unshaven, and he even rents a cheap commuter car after his Mercedes SL has been tampered with. Julian finally confronts Leon, who confesses that one of the other, younger gigolos who works for him had killed the wealthy man's wife, and Leon had conceived the plan to frame Julian. After an argument, Julian accidentally pushes Leon over the apartment balcony and he falls to his death. With no one to help him, Julian ends up in jail, awaiting trial for the murder. However, when all seems lost, Michelle risks her reputation and that of her husband to provide Julian with the alibi that can save him from prison.