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Narrow Margin adds humanism to thriller genre

NARROW MARGIN

Written and directed by Peter Hyams.

Starring Gene Hackman and Anne Archer.

Now playing at Loews Copley Place.

By KAI TAO

NARROW MARGIN, the new suspense thriller starring Gene Hackman and Anne Archer, promises to be yet another hit to add to screenwriter/director Peter Hyams' list. Narrow Margin mixes humor and action in a well-directed film.

The story begins with a blind date between Carol Hunnicut (Anne Archer), and a successful lawyer, Michael Tarlow (J. T. Walsh), who meet for dinner at an elegant hotel. During the meal, Tarlow receives some unfinished business that he has to attend to. With the classic line, "I know this is fishy," Tarlow invites Hunnicut to wait for him in his room while he makes a quick phone call. Little does she expect that Tarlow is in actuality an underworld lawyer who had embezzled funds from his client, Leo Watts (Harris Yulin). While Hunnicut is in the bathroom, Leo surprises Tarlow by coming to his room to confront him. With typical Mafia flair, Tarlow is executed with Hunnicut witnessing the murder.

Investigating the case is Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Robert Caulfield (Gene Hackman), who receives a tip that there was a witness to the murder. Caulfield proceeds to fly to Canada to retrieve Hunnicut, who is hiding in a remote cabin. Unknowingly, he accidently exposes her whereabouts to the hit men sent to silence her. Caulfield and Hunnicut then make a frantic escape to a Vancouver-bound train only to discover that the hit men have followed them on board.

For the next 20 hours, the two attempt to escape the hit men, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse, where the difference between life and death is only a narrow margin. Whereas Hunnicut originally is reluctant to testify, and Caulfield is gung-ho about bringing her back to LA, the two gradually gain the respect of each other as they cooperate to escape their assailants. Along the way, there are a few more surprises that develop, as the audience learns of a traitor within the LAPD.

Narrow Margin displays some of the usual characteristics of suspense thrillers with the director keeping the audience on the edge of their seats from the first minute. The hitmen are given stereotypical characteristics, wearing the expensive suits, sunglasses, and cowboy boots associated with them.

However, Narrow Margin differs in that it attempts to add a humanistic aspect to the characters instead of the simple shoot-the-bad-guy thriller. The movie was filmed on location in the Canadian Rockies, which further dramatizes the loneliness of Caulfield and Hunnicut's ordeal.

Caulfield is unique in that he is not used to serving out in the field. As deputy DA, most of his life has been spent in the courtroom prosecuting criminals, not fighting against armed hitmen. His age contributes more to his frailty as does the intellectual image created by his glasses. Yet, Caulfield finds that there is more in him than he ever expects, as he rises to his task and protects Hunnicut.

With its action-packed suspense and sharp humor, viewers will surely be pleased with Narrow Margin.