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Film review: Unlawful Entry

Published: Tuesday, June 30 1992 12:00 a.m. MDT

A taut thriller much of the way, "Unlawful Entry" suffers from some serious lapses in logic, then virtually falls apart at the end with that old cliche, the apparently dead villain who rises up for one more shot at the victims.

And that's too bad, especially considering the talent involved here.

The film opens with Kurt Russell working late in his home and his wife, Madeleine Stowe, sleeping in their bedroom when they hear a noise downstairs. Russell goes down with a golf club in his hand and encounters an intruder. When Stowe follows, the burglar grabs her and puts a knife to her throat, then takes her outside, dumps her in the pool and runs off.

Stowe is left unhurt, but both she and Russell are, naturally, quite shaken — and Russell is left with festering self-doubt because he was so helpless.

They call the police, and officers Ray Liotta and Roger E. Mosley show up. The next day, Liotta goes the extra mile by getting detectives in to take fingerprints and by helping install a security system.

In turn, they invite Liotta to dinner and have a friendly barbecue. Liotta, they find, is a lonely cop who yearns for family ties, but gradually it becomes apparent that he's devious and possibly psychotic.

Russell tips to this early on, after an evening out on patrol with Liotta and Mosely. But he has trouble convincing Stowe, since Liotta has taken great pains to ingratiate himself to her.

After a while, Russell finds that Liotta has plans to try to take Stowe away, though she is blind to it — and eventually, Liotta is using his influence to chip away at every element of stability in Russell's life.

There are some very scary moments in "Unlawful Entry," as well as a sinister subtext about the evils of authority being misused and the fragility of security in one's life. But first-time screenwriter Lewis Colick, along with his two collaborators, and director Jonathan Kaplan ("The Accused"), are more interested in cheap thrills than exploring psychological subtext. Or, for that matter, than providing simple explanations for what seem to be some pretty wild leaps of logic.

And while it could be argued that this psycho policeman is portrayed as an isolated case in the Los Angeles Police Department, none of the other cops here are portrayed as particularly noble. Russell seeks help and the captain demonstrates no sympathy whatsoever. Even Mosely, who, it is hinted at early on, apparently knows Liotta has serious problems, is no help. In addition, it's certainly in questionable taste to have a scene where an L.A. cop brutally beats a black man with his nightstick, however integral to the plot.

Still, the performers give it their all, and cheap thrills may be enough for box-office success — especially in this season of superficial summer fare.

"Unlawful Entry" is rated R for some strong violence, a fairly steady stream of profanity and vulgarity, nudity and graphic sex.