Unlawful Entry 1.0 stars

Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused, Immediate Family) tries his hand at the "Highsmithian" thriller: the tale of the ordinary life that, through some chance event, outside intrusion, or internal gyroscopic wobble, soon begins to veer on an ever-widening course of aberration. In this case, too soon and too wide. In its barest bones, the plotline -- the policeman who starts out seeming to be uncommonly sensitive, caring, and helpful, and who eventually develops into a major nuisance -- calls to mind specifically Patricia Highsmith's A Dog's Ransom. (Is the recounted poodle anecdote a coincidence or an hommage?) But only for a short while. The opening helicopter shot, linking a bad-neighborhood crime scene with a better-part-of-town backyard swimming pool, neatly establishes the sociological scope of the movie. And the early exposition is economical and logical: the break-in at a yuppie couple's House Beautiful, the arrival of a courteous team of uniformed cops, the installation of a security system under the supervision of one of the cops in his off hours. (And how about a beer while you're at it? Love one, thanks.) Already, though, the appreciative once-over which the policeman gives the lady of the house (the marmoreal Madeleine Stowe), and the crocodile-at-feeding-time demeanor of Ray Liotta in the cop's part, have given the game away. And the transgressions of the antagonist escalate fast and far, till we can at last see clear to a tidy ending. With Kurt Russell. 1992.

Duncan Shepherd

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