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Unlawful Entry

Perhaps reacting against his own submersion into feminist sexual politics for the 1988 film The Accused, director Jonathan Kaplan made a sharp about-face in 1992's Unlawful Entry, a taut, nuanced, high-caliber thriller exploring the male preoccupation with security. Kurt Russell stars as Michael Carr, an entrepreneur whose life — and masculinity — is thrown into chaos after he helplessly watches a criminal hold a knife to his wife's throat while escaping an interrupted burglary. Already emasculated by his failure to provide safety for Karen (Madeline Stowe), Michael's assumed protective instinct is further usurped when unbalanced cop Pete Davis (Ray Liotta) decides he can do for her better. Sure, much of Unlawful Entry is a boilerplate thriller, but Kaplan and scenarist Lewis Colick make a couple of crucial choices that elevate the material into one of the tightest and most thoughtful suspense films of the '90s. Foremost, they eliminate the lazy-writer's crutch of stupid characters — unlike most films of the genre, plot advancement rarely depends on characters making the dumbest possible move in a given situation. Furthemore, both Karen and Michael are written with integrity, doing their best to handle difficult situations, with any missteps well-motivated by psychology. Adding further texture and strength to the story, Kaplan includes small, indiscreet moments for each character, including villain Liotta, that flesh out the insecurities that drive, hinder, and ultimately threaten them. It must be admitted, many female viewers have found Unlawful Entry to be sexist, boring, and/or repulsive, but any male who engages in Kaplan's excellent film is bound to discover a provocative and exciting dissection of his own preconceptions about manhood. Fox has put together modest DVD package, including a fine anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in DTS and Dolby Digital 4.0, a commentary track by Kaplan, a short featurette, and TV spots and trailers. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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