Angel of the Mourning

The downbeat romance Angel Eyes isn't something to cheer

Chances are you don't know a whole lot about Angel Eyes other than that it's the brand-new Jennifer Lopez movie. Maybe you also know that it co-stars Jim Caviezel. It's been described in some articles as a supernatural romance, and Caviezel himself has said that he can't tell what the movie is about without giving too much away. Clearly, Warner Bros. wants an air of mystery to surround the proceedings, and that may be because director Luis Mandoki, creator of such forgettable weepies as Message in a Bottle and When a Man Loves a Woman, is obviously trying to ape the stylings of M. Night Shyamalan in this one, with his slow pacing, near-supernatural stillness, drab locations and monochromatic cinematography. Make people suspect that there's a big surprise coming, and it only adds to the illusion.

Unfortunately, not only does nothing surprising happen...next to nothing happens at all. The film opens with police officer Sharon Pogue (Lopez) rescuing an unseen victim of a car crash. The sequence is carefully structured so that we never see the victim's face--could that be the big surprise? If so, it's a flop, since there's really only one character it could possibly be, and you've almost certainly guessed who already.

Night moves aside, however, Angel Eyes is a unique and striking film for at least the first two-thirds of its running time, after which it turns, all too sadly, predictable and mundane. It has to have been a hard sell for the studio: A downbeat tale of romance between a violent, insomniac female cop and a mysterious potential lunatic hardly sounds like Saturday-night date material. Lopez's presence will of course guarantee a big opening weekend regardless (if she can make The Wedding Planner a hit and convince folks all over the world that she's a pop star, this ought to be no sweat).

Now to rejoin the story, or absence of same, in progress: Officer Sharon Pogue, the implausibly glamorous sole female member of her squad, is having trouble sleeping and controlling her temper, both of which stem from the childhood trauma of calling the police on her spouse-abusing father (Victor Argo), something her family has never forgiven her for. Mysterious Good Samaritan Catch (Caviezel) is a dazed-looking chap who wanders the streets doing minor good deeds such as breaking into people's cars to turn their headlights off or alerting neighbors that they have left their keys in the front door. Then one day he happens to be in the right place at the right time as an unruly suspect is about to shoot Sharon. Catch makes the save, and there begins an unlikely courtship.

As his moniker implies, however, there is indeed a...catch. The man won't give his full name, say what he does for a living or talk about his past. His apartment is virtually empty, save for drawers full of Power Ranger toys. And he has a strange fixation of leaving doors open. Still, he's enough of a wide-eyed spirit guide that being around him helps Sharon figure out her own familial issues. He clearly has issues of his own but is in denial and won't fess up.

Caviezel is fantastic in this role and does it better than just about anyone else could have. It may simply be a feature-length expansion of his shy, homeless bum in Pay It Forward, but it's becoming clear that no one can pull timidity off quite the way he can. And when Sharon flakes on a date she and Catch had, Caviezel delivers the film's most memorable scene, as he goes to Sharon's house, pounds on the door repeatedly for several minutes, then once inside delivers a stern lecture on the importance of keeping appointments.

Terrence Howard (The Best Man) is also particularly good as Sharon's edgy partner and a man she'd probably be better suited for than Catch, though such an avenue is never explored. As for Lopez, she's certainly not bad, but she'd be more convincing as an actress generally if, for once in her life, she were actually willing to look bad even for a split second. Even allowing for movie-star gorgeousness, the diva look on a cop just doesn't cut it.

 
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