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20th Century Fox presents
Unlawful Entry (1992)

"Being a policeman is really all about helping people."
- Pete Davis (Ray Liotta)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: May 15, 2001

Stars: Kurt Russell, Ray Liotta
Other Stars: Madeleine Stowe
Director: Jonathan Kaplan

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: R for (sex, nudity, violence, and intense scenes)
Run Time: 01h:51m:24s
Release Date: May 22, 2001
UPC: 024543014416
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B+B+ C

DVD Review

There is a whole sub-genre of thrillers that have the same basic plot: someone new comes in to the characters' lives who, at first, seems nice and normal, unusually friendly and helpful, even. Of course, it is always revealed to one character that this person is a total "bleeping" lunatic, but no one else wants to believe it, because hey, it IS Mr. or Mrs. Helpful they are talking about! The 1990s featured many such thrillers, including the hits Fatal Attraction and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Heck, Jim Carrey even made a poorly received parody of the genre (Cable Guy). Unlawful Entry follows the same basic pattern as all of these films, but it is better than most of them (call me a nut, but I'm a Cable Guy fan).

This time, our hapless protagonists are Michael (Russell) and his wife Karen (Stowe). Their peaceful lives are shattered when a robber breaks into their home and almost kills Karen. The two call the police; one of the officers who arrives is the pleasant Pete (Liotta) who, from the start, seems a model officer. He goes out of his way to see that Karen feels safe, personally supervising the installation of a security system. In the interest of not spoiling the individual plot points (even if the overall arc is routine), I won't say much more except that Pete is probably a bit too concerned about Karen's safety, and Michael's ability (or deservedness) to protect her.

Jonathan Kaplan made some good choices in shooting this, and he injects new life into the formula with his tense staging and subtle direction. For the most part, cheap scares are totally avoided; the tension builds naturally, without gimmicks. To really induce a sense of unease in the audience, the film had to feel realistic, and it does throughout, thanks largely to Kaplan's restraint.

Ray Liotta is the real surprise, however. The Pete Davis role is an actor's dream, allowing for varying shades of insanity and menace. Liotta deftly moves from killer to comforter, seemingly unaware of his own insanity; much of his work is just with his eyes. They go from a soft, inviting smile to an icy glare with his changes in mood. Russell and Stowe have little to do but react to his work, and both are fine (and when I say "fine," I'm thinking mostly of Stowe).

I think many people have an inherent distrust of cops, which is unfair, but understandable. Yes, most of them are honest, and yes, most of them put their lives on the line to protect the public. But they also operate in a different world; they are open to avenues of action that are frightening to the public at large. Unlawful Entry is so effective because it illustrates what could happen if the trust between an officer and the public was abused.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I was a wee bit disappointed with the image on the last Fox disc I reviewed (Point Break), in part due to the less-than-perfect condition of the print used for the DVD transfer. Unlawful Entry is only a year younger than that other film, but the DVD image shares none of its problems (in terms of scratches or dirt marring the image). Most everything else looks good as well. Colors are strong and natural. Blacks look good, and there is excellent shadow detail, which is a plus, considering about half the film takes place at night. Fine detail is excellent, and I noticed no artifacting to speak of. Once again, the only major problem is a spot of edge-enhancement, but it comes and goes and never becomes a distraction.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Fox has included both a DD4.0 and a DTS track for this release, and once again, I noticed no major differences between the two. The front soundstage holds most of the action and is very wide. There aren't a lot of flashy pans and zooms, but there is some nice, distinct spatial imaging and directional effects. The dialogue is suitably clear and clean, and the score mixes into the surrounds for maximum thriller atmosphere. As for the surrounds, they don't come in to play all that much, and when they do, they appear to be mono, but they still add something to the feel of the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Point Break, Chain Reaction, Big Trouble in Little China
2 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Jonathan Kaplan
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:01m:30s

Extras Review: Though it retains the $22.95 price point, Unlawful Entry features some more substantial extras than recent Fox streets (not so much the "substantial" as the "more"). You see, in addition to the trailer, TV spots, and a brief EPK (see the whole film, in four minutes!), there is included a commentary track with director Jonathan Kaplan. Nothing is worse than trying to sit through a "and now we see so-and-so talking, and later they'll" track, and by and large, this one falls into that category. While there are a few interesting snippets, most of it was quite dull. Fox also flicks some more extras our way in trailers for Point Break, Chain Reaction, and Big Trouble in Little China. Hey, if you mess around with the review links embedded in this extras section, you could play "Six Degrees of the Fox May 22nd Releases." Fun.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

I wasn't expecting too much out of Unlawful Entry; it was on the bottom of my "to review" pile. But I found it to be a surprisingly effective thriller that entertains even within the confines of its rather familiar concept. Fox has once again done a nice job with the DVD, and for the price, this one is a good value. Just don't let Ray Liotta freak you out too much. Cree. Pee.


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