The son of blacklisted composer Sol Kaplan and an early protege of Roger Corman, Kaplan directed several competent exploitation films in the 1970s before graduating to somewhat more character-driven features in the 80s. Some of his most notable works of include the "troubled teens" movie, "Over the Edge" (1979), and the racing car saga, "Heart Like a Wheel" (1983), which boasted a fine performance by Bonnie Bedelia.
Kaplan achieved his greatest box-office triumph with "The Accused" (1988), depicting a working class woman, Sarah Tobias (played by Jodie Foster) who has been gang raped and demands full retribution from her attackers. The film was controversial, due in part to the inclusion of an explicit rape scene. His next project, "Immediate Family" (1989), expounded on the TV movie-of-the-week genre, featuring James Woods and Glenn Close as a wealthy couple who adopt a poor young couple's infant.
Kaplan went on to garner critical praise (though the film bombed financially) for "Love Field" (1992), a low-concept drama involving an interaction between a black man and a white woman on the day JFK was shot. In the same year, he directed the modestly commercially successful "Unlawful Entry", starring Madeleine Stowe and Ray Liotta, a taut psychological thriller that collapses into its own genre conventions. Like "The Accused", it somewhat dubiously preyed on fears of rape. The director followed up with the high-profile female Western "Bad Girls" (1994), which managed to cement Hollywood's notion of Kaplan being a "women's director". Originally slated as an independent feminist film to be directed by Tamra Davis, the film had its budget and its babes-on-broncos quality amplified considerably when Kaplan came on board.
Although Kaplan has evolved from his early slash-and-burn B-movie days to become a talented Hollywood hired gun, some have argued that his Corman-influenced pictures were his most distinctive, in particular one of his earliest efforts, "The Student Teachers" (1973).