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At the Mercy of a Stranger

There's a stale air of deja vu hanging over this standard TV pic about a successful real estate agent whose husband hires a hitman to send her to that prime property in the sky. About 15 minutes into the movie, one gets the feeling there are some busy elves out there, cranking out these by-the-numbers pseudo-thrillers just to keep primetime humming until the midseason shows arrive.

With:
Elizabeth Cooper ..... Joanna Kerns John Davis ........... Tim Matheson Dr. Thomas Cooper .... Stephen Lang Stephanie Cooper .... Kristin Adams Lisa Cooper ......... Nicole Dicker Tommy Cooper ........ Steven Taylor Detective Cahill .... Bill MacDonald Chief Harris .... Robert Harris Jan Scott ....... Rosemary Dunsmore Connie .......... Sally Cahill Ben Prentiss .... Nigel Shawn Williams

There’s a stale air of deja vu hanging over this standard TV pic about a successful real estate agent whose husband hires a hitman to send her to that prime property in the sky. About 15 minutes into the movie, one gets the feeling there are some busy elves out there, cranking out these by-the-numbers pseudo-thrillers just to keep primetime humming until the midseason shows arrive.

The pic opens as career woman Elizabeth Cooper, played by Joanna Kerns (looking not a day older than the time she played Mrs. Seaver on the ’80s sitcom “Growing Pains”), meets the hitman hired to kill her. After initially pretending that he’s interested in buying a house, tough guy John Davis (Tim Matheson) comes clean about being hired by Elizabeth’s weirdo husband, Thomas (Stephen Lang), to put a couple of bullets in her head.

Things get complicated when the hitman begins to develop some feelings for Elizabeth. After following her around and snapping some secret photos, John realizes that this rich lady isn’t so bad after all. A better plan would be to fall in love with her and pretend to kill her so he can get the fee from her husband. Then the two lovebirds can go shopping for furniture together or sip fruity drinks on a tropical beach somewhere.

Elizabeth is skeptical at first, but when she hears her crazy husband ordering her death on tape, she has no choice but to fall for this handsome stranger. So what if he’s a career criminal. He’s got nice eyes, orders champagne with dinner and is pretty good with the camera. You know she’s smitten when he asks her whether she prefers Chinese or Italian food for dinner and she replies, “You know my husband never asked me what kind of food I wanted.”

This is the type of movie in which when the lead says, “I don’t love you anymore,” there’s ominous thunder in the background, the husband is so evil his left eye seems to be bulging out of his head during arguments with the Mrs., and just before the first commercial break, somebody barks, “You will have to die!”

The high-definition TV production certainly looks slick, the picturesque Toronto settings are easy on the eyes and the cast tries hard to do their best with the clunky dialogue.

At the Mercy of a Stranger

CBS; Wed. Nov. 3, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Toronto by Grossbart Barnett Prods. in association with CBS Prods. Executive producers, Jack Grossbart, Joan Barnett; director, Graeme Campbell; writers, Matthew Sommer, Deborah Jones.

Crew: Camera, Richard Leiterman; production designer, Vlasta Svoboda; editor, Michael Rea; music, Gary Chang; casting, Shana Landsburg. 2 HOURS.

Cast: Elizabeth Cooper ..... Joanna Kerns John Davis ........... Tim Matheson Dr. Thomas Cooper .... Stephen Lang Stephanie Cooper .... Kristin Adams Lisa Cooper ......... Nicole Dicker Tommy Cooper ........ Steven Taylor Detective Cahill .... Bill MacDonald Chief Harris .... Robert Harris Jan Scott ....... Rosemary Dunsmore Connie .......... Sally Cahill Ben Prentiss .... Nigel Shawn Williams

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