Intentionally ugly domestic thriller features John Ritter and Henry Winkler strongly cast against type; success will depend on audience’s willingness to accept Ritter in a non-comic role and the Fonz as a vicious psychopath.
Marriage of architect Jeremy Carlisle (Ritter) and sociology student Lynn (Stephanie Faracy) has dissolved, Jeremy now living with Susannah (Julianne Phillips) and Lynn newly attached to Tony (Winkler). Tony quickly becomes dominating, then physically aggressive to Lynn, beating her, stalking her, and eventually threatening her life.
Lynn and her three children turn to Jeremy for help; his preoccupation with them leads to trouble at work and with Susannah. As pressure increases, Jeremy is forced — against his better nature — to take some sort of decisive action.
Jerome Kass’ taut script is based on screenplay “One Way Out,” by Mick Ford.
Rod Hardy directs with considerable flair, aided by John A. Martinelli’s snappy editing, and pic looks particularly good under d.p. David Connell and production designer Jill Scott.
Ritter and (especially) Winkler turn in exceptional work, with Faracy and Phillips striving to make most of roles that some viewers may find unsympathetic — Lynn for not ditching Tony early on, and Susannah for her constant whining in face of Jeremy’s crisis.
Strong supporting perfs are turned in by Sam Mancuso as a neighbor and Matthew Walker as a construction supervisor, both of whom come to Jeremy’s aid.
Essential unlikability of all major characters may result in tuneouts. For anybody who makes it that far, last ten minutes or so are real nail-biters; conclusion, which some may consider a cop-out on Ritter’s part, provides ample meat for speculation on what happens after the film action has ended.