Unlawful Entry

(Jonathan Kaplan, USA, 1992)


Unlawful Entry is an intimacy thriller that very obviously combines various elements from other, recent successes in its genre.

Take one yuppie couple, threatened both internally and externally (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, 1992); add a corrupt, predatory cop (Internal Affairs, 1990) who is also something of a working class 'animal' (Cape Fear, 1991); mix in a brutal fight for survival (Sleeping with the Enemy, 1991), modern urban neuroses (Single White Female, 1992), and disturbing sexual undertones (Poison Ivy, 1992).

Kurt Russell and Madeleine Stowe play the Carrs, a somewhat unlovely and materialistic couple. After a violent burglary, they welcome the help of Officer Pete Davis (Ray Liotta) in securing their home against future threat. But Davis is a disturbed character – it is hard to tell whether his deepest drive is to be accepted into this 'model' family, or to destroy it. Whatever his game, he now has every key to the Carr household.

It is a real pity that so much of the film is painfully familiar territory. Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused, 1988) is a fine director, and everything he does is admirably crafted and intelligently subtle. He is an expert at subverting genres slyly, from within.

Here, Kaplan takes an essentially male-centred, reactionary story, and gives it an almost feminist perspective. He even manages to present Davis, the Monster of the tale, in a somewhat sympathetic light.

Nonetheless, for all its quiet virtues, Unlawful Entry will have an uphill battle impressing many moviegoers. Perhaps it will only be appreciated on video, when it no longer suffers from an immediate comparison with every other contemporaneous film in the same sub-genre.

MORE Kaplan: Brokedown Palace, Heart Like a Wheel, Immediate Family, Love Field, White Line Fever, Fallen Angels, Project X

© Adrian Martin November 1992

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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