At the Mercy of a Stranger (1999)
The Rules of Playing Dead
After 17 years of marriage Elizabeth Cooper (Joanna Kerns - Emma's Wish) no longer loves her husband Dr. Thomas (Stephen Lang - Manhunter) having had enough of his manipulative, abusive ways and filed for divorce something which Thomas refuses to accept. Whilst working as a realtor Elizabeth meets her client John Davis (Tim Matheson - Sleeping with the Devil) who mid conversation explains that he has in fact been hired by her husband to kill her but having watched her manipulating husband wants to help her instead. The plan is for Elizabeth to pretend to have been killed so that John can collect the money but also get evidence so that she can have Thomas put away for good except things don't go to plan.
What would you do if a strange man told you he had been hired to kill you? Maybe you would scream and run, maybe laugh and think it's a poor joke or maybe panic and loose control of your bodily functions. But of course that is not what happens in the movies where instead you listen to the guy and then with out checking him out agree to a plan where you play dead. That is one of the numerous but expected issues with "At the Mercy of a Stranger" a 90s TV movie which takes some ideas from a true story and turns them into a typical 90s drama.
In fairness "At the Mercy of a Stranger" starts reasonably well as during the meeting between Elizabeth and John which comes within the first 20 minutes we get the back story. We get the Cooper family set up, how Thomas is controlling and how after Elizabeth decided to divorce him he pulled a gun on her himself. And whilst the idea of a woman going into hiding whilst someone tries to get the man who is after is not that original it is certainly a bit different for a TV movie. The trouble is that once the set up is out of the way it sort of gets predictable as unsurprisingly things don't go to plan and they get increasingly desperate whilst John takes a shine to Elizabeth.
Despite this and the fact that "At the Mercy of a Stranger" doesn't have great writing it is watchable thanks to the main trio of actors. Joanna Kerns, Stephen Lang and Tim Matheson all play their parts well, from psychotic to frightened despite having the unforgettable sort of characters which dominated this type of 90s TV movie.
What this all boils down to is that if you enjoy TV movies for their simply produced style then "At the Mercy of a Stranger" is on par with many from the 90s. But it is nothing special with the typical array of issues which will make those who don't like 90s TV movies laugh.
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