Studied journalism at the University of Illinois.
He was a camera assistant to Haskell Wexler on Medium Cool (69). From that, he became the cinematographer on a number of low-budget action pictures: Cool Breeze (72, Barry Pollack); Private Paiis (72, Paul Bartel); Hit Man (72, George Armitage); The Slams (73, Jonathan Kaplan); Lejike (75, Menahem Golan). That led to Stony Island, an independent feature, done in the Chicago area, about a racially integrated musical group.
But after photographing Over the Edge (79, Kaplan), he directed a cheap horror film. The Final Terror, which helped him get the Chuck Norris picture Code of Silence. Three years later, he was handling Steven Seagal in Above the Law. The Package was that rarity, a poor Gene Hackman film—with Tommy Lee Jones in support. Under Siege marked the commercial triumph of Seagalism, and from that Davis jumped to the blockbuster The Fugitive (with Jones in pursuit of Harrison Ford). That picture raised a rabble, and won Jones an Oscar, but in truth it’s devoid of the long-running suspense of the TV original, to say nothing of the depressive foreboding David Janssen brought to it.
Nothing since has been as big. But A Peifect Murder was a singularly inept “opening up” of Dial M for Murder, which seemed blind to the contained theatrical charm of the original. Collateral Damage was set back six months because of its inadvertent overlap with the events of September 11.