By Marc S. Sanders
The boogeyman is dressed as a police officer!
In 1992’s Unlawful Entry, Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused) directs a well-played Ray Liotta as a psychotic cop named Pete Davis who is terrorizing a yuppie couple named Michael & Karen Carr (Kurt Russell, Madeleine Stowe). The Carrs experience a home intruder who puts a knife to Karen’s throat. Officer Davis offers comfort to the pair and happily volunteers the arrangements for a high-tech alarm system. The first mistake that Michael makes is sharing the password with trusty Pete. You’ll expect that to come into play later on. Maybe what inspired the password will work itself into the film as well. Hmmmmmm?????
It’s difficult for Pete to resist the obsession he has for Karen and so he begins a campaign to get Michael out of the way. First, he demonstrates his brutality by offering Michael the opportunity to senselessly beat up the home intruder for no other purpose than personal satisfaction. When Mike refuses, Pete finishes the job. Later, Mike makes efforts to keep Pete out of their lives. It’s hard to do that when a highly decorated cop is involved. Karen, his own loving spouse, won’t even truly believe Mike; neither will the police chief.
As Pete continues with his intentions, Mike’s credit cards are maxed out, he loses a high priced client that Pete has been talking to, parking tickets add up, and so on. Pete also appears at the house at inopportune times like when Karen is taking in a swim or creepily stepping into their bedroom while the married couple is having sex. Eventually, Mike is put out of the way when he’s imprisoned after being framed as a drug dealer. Now Karen is all alone for a terrifying third act that you’ve likely seen hundreds of times before.
Unlawful Entry is engaging while you’re watching, but it does not convey much. The happenings all appear probable if a deranged cop wanted to go through all this trouble. Therefore, Ray Liotta owns the picture. Yet, what did I learn here? Don’t call the police?
For Kurt Russell, this is the first of two “husband is being terrorized” roles for him. Later, Russell would headline the cast of a better film to fall in this genre called Breakdown. Still, I like Russell here. He starts out as a guy who is not capable of fighting for the sake of his wife. He regrettably admits that shame to Pete early on. Pete pounces on that advantage to win Karen. Later, the strength of Mike’s short temper followed by his fear push him to do what he must to protect himself and his wife.
Madeleine Stowe is a good actress. There’s just not much for her to do with this part. She’s the spouse who opts not to believe her husband’s concerns. If she did, there wouldn’t be much of a movie. The third act is all action and blood and falling down the stairs and running back up the stairs. It’s no surprise really. Though it is convenient that Michael is finally able to post bail and get home in time for a final confrontation with Pete.
One thing that kept echoing in my head though was that as good as Ray Liotta is (he’s very, very good actually; very primal and deceiving), he is terrorizing a woman named “Karen.” Every time he says the name Karen, all that comes back to me is the film Goodfellas where he more or less tormented and disrespected Lorraine Bracco known as, you guessed it, Karen. A rule should be put in place, Liotta can no longer be cast with other characters named Karen. His Karen quota is maxed out.