It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Because the opening scenes of "Sleeping with the Enemy" are so powerful, the rest of the movie is all the more disappointing. The film begins as an unyielding look at a battered wife, and ends as another one of those thrillers where the villain toys with his victim and the audience. There are good performances all through the movie, but the filmmakers don't keep faith with their actors.
This is the first big starring role since "Pretty Woman" for Julia Roberts, who plays the young wife of a millionaire investment counselor. Presumably they have a place in town somewhere, but all of their domestic scenes together are spent in their luxurious summer home at the beach, where the husband (Patrick Bergin) institutes a reign of psychological and physical terror.
He's one of those men who sees his wife as both possession and servant. She's attractive to show off at parties, but at home he lashes out at her if the towels aren't perfectly straightened in the bathroom, or the canned goods aren't lined up on the shelves with military precision. She is allowed no will of her own, and when he strikes her for the first time, it has a brutal impact on the audience. Bergin is very good as the anal-retentive tyrant, and the film seems poised to make some sort of effective dramatic statement.
But no. "Sleeping with the Enemy" is a slasher movie in disguise, an up-market version of the old exploitation formula where the victim can run, but she can't hide.