Plot: Michael Carr (Kurt Russell) and his wife Karen (Madeleine Stowe) have had some success in life, complete with a nice home in a plush neighborhood. But as they soon discover, even their affluent area isn’t always safe, when a burglar breaks into their house. Michael hears some strange noises from his office, so he grabs his golf club and goes to take a closer look. Karen is soon pounced by the intruder however, who leaps out of a closet and pulls Karen away from Michael. Soon however, the intruder makes a run for the hills and right after, the young couple phone the police, who dispatch an officer to field a report. That officer is Pete Davis (Ray Liotta), who turns out to be a very nice guy, offering them tips and suggestions about home security and the like. He soon helps them choose and install a home security system and begins to stop by at times, to check in and see how things have went for them. This seems friendly at first, but as time passes and the visits become more frequent, Michael starts to think something could amiss with Davis, who seems to have taken a strong interest in Karen. But is Davis some kind of psychopath with an obsession, or is Michael just being paranoid and jealous?
Entertainment Value: This is a terrific thriller, filled with obsession, suspense, and a gifted cast, led by Ray Liotta as one hell of a stalker. The narrative is a familiar one, but I think having Liotta as a police officer adds some new layers and Unlawful Entry hits all the beats with a high polish. So while we have seen this kind of obsessed thriller before, the formula is nailed in this movie and between the slick production values and great cast, it more than stands out. The tension ramps up at a nice pace before boiling over and time is taken to develop the characters and relationships, with even smaller roles given some extra time to cook. This leads to more depth than some might expect and it pays dividends, since you’re more likely to connect with the material, since it offers more than just surface level suspense and tension. The cop angle adds a lot of dread to an already intense atmosphere, so the thrills are consistent and frequent, especially as the movie heads into the home stretch. Unlawful Entry slides into over the top moments at times, but not too often and just enough to take the experience up a notch, before pulling things back a little. I found this to be an effective thriller that holds up even on replay visits, so it earns a strong recommendation.
The movie has strong performances across the board, but Ray Liotta steals the show as the obsessed police officer. I’ve seen a lot of these stalker thrillers and Liotta’s turn would shine in all of them, but adding the element of being a cop really amplifies the danger and menace involved. A maniac is bad enough, but a maniac with connections and the law on his side, that’s next level terror. And Liotta milks the role for all its worth, in an over the top, but overly so effort that really captures the slow burn descent into hellish obsession. I like that he is able to be likable and even charming at first, before going off the rails and of course, Liotta is a master of screen menace, which makes his take on Pete Davis a memorable one. Even when he really dials up the madness, he comes off as a palpable, believable threat. Kurt Russell is also good here, as the rather restrained and domestic husband coping with having his wife put in danger. He is given some nice depth by the script and he puts it effective use, in a rock solid effort. The cast also includes Madeleine Stowe, Dick Miller, Ken Lerner, Roger E. Mosley, and of course, Sonny Carl Davis.
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