UNLAWFUL ENTRY. 20th Century Fox, 1992. Kurt Russell as Michael Carr, Madeleine Stowe as Karen Carr, Ray Liotta as Officer Pete Davis, Roger E. Mosley as Officer Roy Cole. Director: Jonathan Kaplan. Currently streaming on Starz & Starz/Amazon Prime.

   The movie begins with an image of suburban bliss. A two-floor house in an affluent part of Los Angeles, a married couple, and their house cat. The perfect setting for the perfect life. But if it were only so peaceful, there’d be no story to tell. And in the case of Unlawful Entry, it doesn’t take very long whatsoever for a shocking act of violence – a home invasion by a crack-addled burglar – to permanently change the course of this married couple’s lives. As if that were not bad enough, one of the cops assigned to the case turns out to be even more dangerous than the criminal.

   Such is the plot of Jonathan Kaplan’s taut and suspenseful thriller. Kurt Russell, always good as an everyman, portrays Michael Carr, a club owner who is working to get his latest project off the ground. Madeleine Stowe, who appeared in numerous thrillers in the 1980s and 1990s, plays his wife, a teacher at an exclusive private elementary school.

   But the real juicy role goes to Ray Liotta, made famous to audiences from his roles in Field of Dreams (1988) and Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990). As LAPD patrolman Pete Davis, Liotta gets to showcase his acting chops. Davis is a lonely, angry man with more than a bit of a misogynistic streak. It’s clear that years of being exposed to the worst of humanity on the mean streets of the City of Angeles has warped his mind. Even his partner, the cynical but clear headed Roy Cole knows that to be the case.

   As much as Unlawful Entry is a movie about a suburban nightmare, it is also a story of unrequited love and dangerous temptation. Things go completely haywire once Pete (Liotta) begins to develop a pathological obsession with Karen Carr (Stowe). At some point, Pete is no longer an unhinged cop; he’s a stalker. And if stalkers are terrifying, think of the damage a stalker with a badge can do. Break into your home and claim they are there to protect you? Check. Fix the computer system so it looks like you have unpaid parking tickets? Check. Boot your car? Check.

   What makes this film work is that, despite the occasional moments in which it verges into dark comedy, it never condescends to the audience, nor winks at it as if it were all a game. It’s a disturbingly effective thriller with many film noir aspects. There’s not a lot of light in this tonally dark film. At the end of the day, it asks the question that never ceases to provoke ample fodder for genre cinema: how far would you go to protect your family when the duly sworn authorities cannot be trusted?