Angel Eyes
review by Elias Savada, 18 May 2001

It's an accident! It's a movie!

No, it's a crime!

And the Federal Trade Commission should investigate.

For fans of Jennifer Lopez there will no extended honeymoon following her recent hits The Cell and The Wedding Planner. J. Lo's new starring vehicle crashes under a misguided marketing campaign that entices you with Ghost-like curiosity, Bone Collector police intrigue, twist-of-fate Sixth Sense conundrums, and love with the mysteriously improper stranger ramifications. That might be enough to lure you into the theater, but you'll want to join in a class-action complaint to the FTC because Luis Mandoki's queasy direction of such a hybrid script provides only a thinly-spread wholly mess that's less then the promised sum of its divergent parts. Poor forlorn J. Lo is bed-ridden with a depressing case of blue flu playing hard nosed South Side Chicago street cop Sharon Pogue opposite battle-scarred accident victim Catch—"just Catch" (Jim Frequency Caviezel), a dazed and confused good Samaritan caught in life's headlights too many times. There's more excess emotional baggage behind the two leads than Anne Robinson carries behind her weakest link on any "good" day.

Director Mandoki delves into personal demons here just as he did with his half-baked romantic drama Message in a Bottle. There may not be a stormy, hanky-drenched ending in Angel Eyes, but the trite dialogue and tear-jerky ending certainly runs aground. And both boats carry the same depressing crew of death-framed stragglers-on, looking for love in all the wrung-out places. Trade in introverted widower Kevin Costner for soft-spoken, near-comatose widower Caviezel; winsome Windy City journalist Robin Wright evolves into curious Chicago cop J. Lo. Do we see a pattern here?

A year after a horrible car wreck opens the film, disheveled mess Catch wanders the streets turning of car lights and returning apartment keys forgotten on the wrong side of the door. Tough-cookie copper Sharon is marked as the family outcast after busting her dad (Victor Argo) for beating his wife (Sonia Braga) years earlier. Now she's pissed that her weak-willed mother has agreed to renew wedding vows with the brute, so she snaps on her sports bra, peels on her Kevlar vest, and takes out her aggression on any local thug who crosses her path. Catch, ever the watchful angel, becomes the errant knight in dull, smelly armor and thereafter her ghostly romantic interest. Scenes in which he regularly delivers groceries to Elanora Davis (Shirley Knight), a disabled woman who always turns two framed photos face down when Catch enters her life, add to the "what-the-heck-does-that-mean" moments that pepper the film. Another jazz club scene makes you question how many times DiPego's script is going to take us down the wrong alley.

You may end up watching the film closer than you should, looking for tell-tale scenes of the enigma that is Catch. Does he sleep? (Maybe, he's got a moth-eaten mattress in his otherwise barren apartment.) Does he eat? (God, who knows what might be in his refrigerator!) Does he sip that beer in his hand? (This is Chicago, buddy.) Is this film for real? (You tell me!) Other questions come to mind. Does Catch ever shower? How can Sharon stand his presumed body order? I assume he brushes his clean, sparkly teeth, although after a year in the streets the enamel should have stained based on the rest of his mental condition and physical appearance.

The constantly roving, hand-held camera often tracks behind his angel eyes and Polish director of photography Piotr Sobocinski (who sadly passed away while on location in Vancouver for Mandoki's next film, 24 Hours) gives this tilt-a-whirl view a rough-seas, other-world feel that seduces the viewer into thinking something else is afoot, when the end result is merely a slight nauseous sensation. When focused on Sharon's street-fighting, crime-bashing techniques, the mood switches to close up cinema vérité style, the better to show off her fist in some skinhead's face.

Caviezel's moody performance portrays the self-inflicted sadness as the eternal loner. "I don't talk to a lot of people," he half-heartedly offers when trying to initiate conversation with the physically and mentally wounded Sharon. He may be smitten, but damned if he shows it.

For two characters whose lives are so spiritually intertwined after a tragic auto wreck, you would think that when they finally find a road out of their loneliness they would at least be wearing SEATBELTS! Right. Done once you can blame it on a bad continuity check. It is unconscionable that the film does it twice. For what little the film has going for it, you don't want to deflate their life-renewed balloon and alienate any safety-conscious viewers with such a dimwitted oversight. Granted, Mandoki is not the only director who has made such goofs (Henry Bromell likewise screwed up in Panic), but here it's almost like a plot twist.

Anyway, there's just nothing terribly special here to merit the ride in Lopez' love-struck cruiser. "Stay with me" Jennifer Lopez whispers over and over at the start of the film. Take my advice: Don't.

But do buckle up.

Directed by:
Luis Mandoki

Jennifer Lopez
Jim Caviezel
Sonia Braga
Terrence Howard
Jeremy Sisto
Monet Mazur
Victor Argo
Shirley Knight

Written by:
Gerald DiPego

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult





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