In the late '80s and early '90s, the glossy psycho thriller was a popular box office choice for many viewers. This was due, in no small part, to a certain smash hit by the name of Fatal Attraction. Then audiences were treated to the psycho-centric likes of Pacific Heights, Dead Calm, Single White Female, The Temp, The Crush, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and many other entertaining releases, including this one.
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan and written by Lewis Colick (though there were a couple of other people involved in creating the story), Unlawful Entry holds up as a superior entry in the psycho thriller sub-genre for two reasons. First, the presence of Ray Liotta, who can play a menacing psycho like few others. Second, the fact that this particular psycho is also a policeman, which really hits home just how scary it can be if any member of Joe Public is ever at the mercy of someone in authority abusing their power.
Kurt Russell and Madeleine Stowe play Michael and Karen Carr, the married couple who meet Officer Pete Davis (Liotta) when he is one of the men who responds to their call after a traumatic experience with an intruder in their home. Pete and his partner, Officer Roy Cole (Roger E. Mosley), make a great impression, both being professional and friendly, and it seems as if Officer Pete may be a good man to have as a friend. However, when Michael realises that Pete doesn't always act in accordance with the law himself he starts to get worried and he tells Karen that they shouldn't spend any more time with him. Of course, by then it's a little too late. Pete sets out to get what he wants and he has his powers as a policeman to help him get it.
The movie, essentially, boils down to a battle of wills between Russell, playing a regular guy, and Liotta and those two men really work well against one another. Madeleine Stowe isn't left out, but the film is certainly more about different types of alpha males. Roger E. Mosley does well in his role, Ken Lerner is good as the friend/attorney Roger and Deborah Offner is likable enough in the role of Karen's friend, Penny. Fans of Dick Miller will be pleased to see his brief cameo and fans of Djimon Hounsou will also be happy, despite the fact that his role is even smaller than that of Miller's.
It may be, like many others of its kind, quite hard to believe at times, but Unlawful Entry also keeps things more tense and uneasy throughout because of the thorough feeling of helplessness that Kurt Russell ends up experiencing. It may be nothing more than a slick, well-made thriller, but there are moments that strike uncomfortably close to home when aligned with news stories that have been known to crop up about corruption in the police force. It serves as a worrying reminder that bad people can do bad things, no matter what uniform they wear.