Perfect Strangers (1984)

Genres - Crime, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Fans of Larry Cohen's often-outrageous work might be surprised by how user-friendly Perfect Strangers. The high-concept premise of a hitman trying to seduce the mother of a child who witnessed his most recent kill would be a perfect subject for a glossy Hollywood thriller. Cohen's treatment of this premise appropriately avoids the outré angles he brought to films like It's Alive or Q: The Winged Serpent. Thankfully, Cohen's singular style ensures that he doesn't get bogged down in mainstream boredom: there are interesting subplots dealing with feminist politics and divorce that add some interesting themes to flesh out the premise. Cohen's no-frills, almost documentarian directing style works wonders with his script, giving it a genuine "New York" flavor and a rawness that enhances the film's unpredictable feel. He also pulls off a few nice suspense setpieces, the best a creepy moment that involves a swing set. More importantly, Cohen gets fine performances from Brad Rijn, who brings a palpable sense of volatility to his conflicted hitman character, and also from Anne Carlisle, who manages to be vulnerable and mature all at once as the mother. Equally worthy of note are vivid supporting turns from John Woerhle as the mother's manipulative ex and Ann Magnuson as a fierce feminist. In short, Perfect Strangers is one of Larry Cohen's most underrated achievements and subtle enough to appeal to those who wouldn't normally go for his style of filmmaking.