Back in the early 80s, Kevin Bacon - along with Steve Guttenberg and Tom Cruise - was on the fast track to stardom. Guttenberg's goon face was rarely seen after the first four "Police Academy" films, Cruise went on to own the world, and Bacon - after dancing his way to the top with "Footloose" - suffered from bad choices and the consequent yawning gaps between films.
With "Murder in the First", Bacon returned with a huge creative wallop, proving that he could easily meet the challenge of character complexity. And so to "Stir of Echoes", in which he again galvanises the screen, this time round as an ordinary American guy's guy, Tom Witzky, a family man who has lived in the same white, working-class, inner-city district of Chicago - on the same block, in fact - all his life. He enjoys contentment to some degree but is also frustrated by the knowledge that he has imposed limits on his life. Cue first hypnosis induced by his sister-in-law, next terrifying flashes of a disturbing parallel universe, and finally a new day-to-day existence in which he is driven obsessively to solve the mystery that is now swamping him.
Second-time director David Koepp steers clear of silly pyrotechnics and empty show as he anchors his supernatural thriller in Tom's daily rituals, employing the racket of city life and intelligent sound edits to crank up the tension. The claustrophobic mood is superbly caught by Bacon who, these days, is a deep enough actor to vanish into the soul of any character he is playing. Bacon and his director are tempted by histrionics towards the end but they see them off together in fine style.