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Unlawful Entry
1992 - R - 118 Mins.
Director: Jonathan Kaplan
Producer: Charles Gordon
Starring: Kurt Russell, Madeleine Stowe, Ray Liotta, Roger E. Mosley, Sherrie Rose
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"Unlawful Entry" is essentially another thriller about an unstable everyman who latches onto others. It's been done before, it'll be done again, but this entry into the genre has a catch - good acting. I'm not sure if good acting can save a film, but long after the plot starts to wear thin you'll find yourself paying attention to the performances, especially that of Ray Liotta, whose role of Henry Hill in "Goodfellas" (1990) is shining through in this movie. Well, not really, but after being put on the witness protection program at the end of "Goodfellas," perhaps this is Henry Hill's new job in life.

Michael Carr (Kurt Russell) and his wife, Karen (Madeleine Stowe), have just started to make themselves feel at home in their new house located around the outskirts of LA. One busy night a burglar breaks in through a window and, after a mild skirmish, holds a knife to Karen's throat. He gets away, they call 911, and moments later a police officer named Peter (Ray Liotta) arrives. He advises that they get better security for their home, which they do (with the help of his expertise). They invite him over to dinner to show their appreciation.

Pete invites Michael to come on a drive with him on his usual rounds as a cop. But he has a surprise - he's found the burglar, and he wants Michael to beat him up. "I'm not doing this," he says, refusing. Pete doesn't understand his hesitation, and proceeds to pummel the robber.

Considering Michael a coward, Pete convinces himself that Karen wants a braver, stronger man in her life. So he hides a stash of drugs in Michael's house and gives an anonymous tip-off to the LAPD, who storm into Michael's house, find the drugs, and throw him in jail with a 250,000 dollar bail.

Meanwhile, Pete moves in on Karen and tries to make her his own - but Michael's vengeance is boiling, and with the help of his lawyer he gets out on bail and chases down Pete, in a final bloody brawl.

Psychological thrillers like these come around often - from "Single White Female" to "Fatal Attraction" to last year's "Swimfan." They're all preaching the same thing - be careful of stalkers and friendly do-gooders. They're probably psychologically troubled. Of course, in the real world when someone does something nice for you, this doesn't mean you should pull a knife on them. But with the flooding of these stalker flicks pouring into Hollywood, I'm sure it'll only be a matter of time until people don't even trust the police.

And that's basically the simple little premise behind this film. It works on a better level than most of its kind because the plotting is a bit more thought-provoking - if the one person you're supposed to be able to turn to isn't on your side, who is?

Ray Liotta gives a terrifyingly real performance in this film, measuring up there with Robert De Niro's troubled taxi driver and Anthony Perkins' homicidal mother figure. But "Psycho" (1960) and "Taxi Driver" (1976) had much stronger scripts. In the end, "Unlawful Entry" succumbs to a lower level than one would hope for, turning into the over-the-top climatic thriller where the hero manages to kill the stalker, only for him to get up one last time. "Unlawful Entry" does, in the end, resort to the one thing it marginally avoided throughout its entire running time: Mediocrity.

I loved one of the last lines, though: "What are you gonna do? Make a citizen's arrest?"

"Unlawful Entry" is rated R for strong language, violence, nudity, and sex scenes. It would be appropriate for older teenagers.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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