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ANGEL EYES(director: Luis Mandoki; screenwriter: Gerald DiPego; cinematographer: Piotr Sobocinski; editor: Jerry Greenberg; cast: Jennifer Lopez (Sharon Pogue), Jim Caviezel (Catch), Victor Argo (Carl Pogue), Sonia Braga (Josephine Pogue), Terrence Howard (Robby), Shirley Knight (Elanora Davis), Jeremy Sisto (Larry), Daniel Magder (Larry Jr.); Runtime: 110; Warner Brothers; 2001)

J. Lo is a convincing cop.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a gritty cop movie, but only when the two protagonists are inarticulate and are trying to form a relationship to ease their inner pain. They have both lost their families in one way or another. Their romance is quirky and seems to be stumbling around to get someplace. Unfortunately, when they do become articulate and mesh together, the film moves into the predictable formulaic mold and ends in a cornball way. Jennifer Lopez and Jim Caviezel were both more endearing when they had nothing to say, where one would constantly be asking the other: “Who are you?”

Sharon Pogue (Jennifer Lopez) is a tough Chicago policewoman, who in the opening scene comforts a critically injured man who has been in a terrible car accident. She is soon shown in action making an arrest on a nasty thug by using a body-slam to make sure she gets the pinch. Sharon’s physical prowess in that incident would make even the most macho policeman feel proud. Relaxing in a bar Sharon trades sexual innuendos with her compatriots on the police force, and smoothly handles her married partner Robby’s (Terrence Howard) sexually playful attempts to come onto her. Sharon shows her vulnerable side at night, after being wound up too tight fighting crime in the street all day, suffering from her loneliness and from her insomnia. She’s also poisoned by the fact that she had to arrest ten years ago her abusive father (Argo), who used her mother (Braga) as a punching bag. The arrest stopped the abuse, but she took all the heat for embarrassing the family. Her father has refused to talk to her since then, and mom only wishes she wouldn’t have arrested him. Sharon now finds out from her construction worker brother that her mother and father plan to renew their wedding vows.

The recovered accident victim goes by the handle Catch (Jim Caviezel). He is a timid, quivering man, who does nothing but walk the city streets in his overcoat and tries to do angelic things for the strangers he encounters. Catch shuts off a guy’s headlights on his parked car, returns his next door neighbor’s keys she left in the door, and takes in a stray dog. For his mother-in-law (Knight), who is disabled in a wheelchair, Catch does the weekly grocery shopping and uses her as his surrogate mother. He has a ghostlike appearance and seems to be disengaged from the world.

When Sharon is faced with a thug standing with a gun over her slumped body after a police chase, Catch jumps him and saves her life. The two get together in the bar where her cop friends hangout and neither one recognizes the other from the car accident a year ago, though Catch feels a strange connection to her. He thinks they were destined to meet. Even though Catch seems like a freak show, Sharon feels something about him that she doesn’t from the other guys she goes out with. They develop a relationship filled with the secret pains they have, but are unable to communicate with each other because their hurt is so deep. His pain is that he can’t live with himself because his wife and kid were killed in the accident. Her pain is that she is not appreciated by her family; they have made her feel like an outsider. When Sharon goes to her brother’s house after he punches his wife around, they react poorly to her intervention. Spousal abuse seems to have a history of being passed onto different generations of the same family, as is evidenced here.

J. Lo is a convincing cop and one tough broad, but who has a soft side underneath her bulletproof vest. Jim Caviezel looks as if he arrived from another world; he’s disheveled and lives in his sparsely decorated apartment featuring only a bed, a telephone with an answering machine, and a drawer filled with children’s toys. He seemed believable as someone who has been traumatized, and begins to recover when it is suddenly revealed that he’s a former jazz trumpeter. As for their hot moments together J. Lo is a natural for sex, but Caviezel seemed too distant to really be getting into it. But the film can almost be forgiven for its sore points in storytelling, because these two star performers bring something to the screen that is curiously arresting. The problem with the film is that the filmmaker couldn’t let their romance play out in a natural way. Filmmaker Luis Mandoki (“Message in a Bottle”) could think of no other way to bring them together than by having Caviezel go through a corny soliloquy at his wife’s graveside; while, J. Lo saved her corny soliloquy for a video-cam message to her father at the family reception. To make matters seem more artificial there is some loud, syrupy music before the film ends and the credits roll by, as J. Lo and Caviezel drive off together seemingly having survived their personal tragedies with some big fake smiles. I wonder how many market research reports it took for them to come up with that happy ending!

REVIEWED ON 5/27/2001 GRADE: C +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”