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‘Unlawful Entry’ (R)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 26, 1992

In the wake of the Rodney King verdict and the riots, and a higher-than-ever unease between police and civilians, the summer thriller "Unlawful Entry" should do wonders for reestablishing trust in the men in blue. Not.

It's basically a gender-switched version of "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," with a cop substituted for the nanny as the love-obsessed security figure/psycho killer taken into the bosom of a nice suburban home.

Kurt Russell and Madeleine Stowe play Michael and Karen Carr, a sweet young couple who have recently moved into a suburban L.A. house. He works late designing nightclubs; she's a schoolteacher who's been jumpy lately about funny noises in the night.

Turns out Karen's right to be nervous -- on this particular night, an intruder holds a kitchen knife to her throat and drags her out the kitchen door as Michael watches helplessly. Karen gets away unharmed, the cops arrive, and when officer Pete Davis (Ray Liotta) gets a look at this distressed damsel, a fatally attracted gleam appears in his beady blue ball-bearing eyes. Uh-oh.

Davis helps the Carrs install a security system (he knows the password, of course), and gets real buddy-buddy with Michael, even taking him along on a grimy, grisly "ride-along" tour of his nighttime beat, culminating in the opportunity for Michael to take revenge on the thug who assaulted his wife. But Michael is sickened by the violence the tightly wound Davis seems to revel in, and by the realization that this loose-cannon cop can get away with anything. Soon things are going haywire, and Michael suspects Davis of infiltrating his career, his home, his credit rating (the ultimate suburban horror!) -- and his marriage. And the poor guy can't even call the police.

"Entry" is acted more intelligently than is usual in this type of cookie-cutter shocker. Stowe is luminously lovely and vulnerable, making her an ideal psycho-magnet; likably low-key Russell is the very model of a modern strong-but-sensitive hubby; and Liotta outdoes even his own previous best efforts at the nice-guy nut case.

And the movie cruises along expertly on its premise. Lewis Colick's script skillfully plays on the headline-fueled insecurities of today's homeowners, and director Jonathan Kaplan ("The Accused") excels in generating paranoia, creating a gradually dawning horror about how much access and your-word-against-mine omnipotence the police have in our lives.

But the last half-hour of "Entry" degenerates into a standard-issue babe-alone-in-the-house-with-psycho scenario. There's even one of those exasperating make-'em-jump false endings. The preview audience actually groaned at this part -- don't these people in the movies ever go to the movies?

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