Friday May 18, 2001
Jennifer Lopez playing a tough, no-nonsense Chicago police officer sounds like fun, and "Angel Eyes" opens with a flourish of quick scenes showing how sharp her mental and physical reflexes are. Lopez's Sharon Pogue is a completely convincing cop, respected by her partner (Terrence Howard) and the other male officers.
When a young man (Jim Caviezel) with a tormented, vacant look in his eyes fearlessly risks his life to save Sharon from a deadly ambush, "Angel Eyes" ventures toward territory that would make it a psychological--or possibly supernatural--thriller. The young man who calls himself Catch could turn out to be a deranged type who saved Sharon only to kill her himself. Or perhaps he's some sort of guardian angel whose time on earth is limited.
Happily, "Angel Eyes" turns out to follow neither path. It is instead an unusual love story that presents Lopez and Caviezel to advantage, thanks to sensitive writing and direction by Gerald DiPego and Luis Mandoki, respectively.
Catch is, however, decidedly strange. He's a tall, nice-looking man who wanders the streets of Chicago in a long overcoat looking for opportunities to perform random acts of kindness. He has a shellshocked quality that makes it seem he has experienced a major trauma in the past. He lives in a minimally furnished downtown apartment, and once a week brings groceries to a kindly wheelchair-bound woman (Shirley Knight) to whom he may be related in some way. In short, had not Catch saved Sharon's life, she probably wouldn't have given him a second glance, let alone finding herself inviting him up to her apartment when their paths cross again.
If at this point Catch is something of a mystery, to say the least, Sharon is another matter. Early on we learn that an invitation to a renewal of the nuptials of her parents (Sonia Braga and Victor Argo) has thrown her into a conflict. A decade earlier Sharon had called the police when her father started beating her mother; he never laid a hand on his wife ever again but has never forgiven his daughter for his public humiliation in a matter he considered private.
Surely, Sharon's action had much to do with propelling her into police work. Sharon is strong and forthright; that she is also beautiful adds up to a combination that has proved to be more than most men can handle. In her way she is as much a loner--and lonely--as Catch.
Sharon finds it hard to accept her father's rejection for having done what she is absolutely certain was the right thing. Always demanding the utmost of herself, she tends to look for perfection in relationships. She's also self-aware and unpretentious, but for all her intense seriousness of purpose, she is also capable of moments of humor. Time and again she wonders why she's drawn to the enigmatic Catch, who in Sharon's presence also begins to loosen up with touches of humor.
If Sharon and Catch had no humor, "Angel Eyes" would never work. Since they do, their gradual, wary-on-both-sides falling in love is credible and touching. As their romance progresses, however, it is clear that sooner or later the blank that seems to be Catch's past is going to start filling up, putting Sharon's detecting skills on the line.
"Angel Eyes" adds up to a carefully crafted romantic drama of considerable insight and emotional impact that provides Lopez an acting challenge she meets with ease. From the start, however, Lopez has understood that careers are built on talent and discipline and not just on looks, as dazzling as she may be.
Angel Eyes, 2001. R, for language, violence and a scene of sexuality. A Warner Bros., Morgan Creek and Franchise Pictures presentation of a Franchise Pictures and Canton Co. production. Director Luis Mandoki. Executive producers Andrew Stevens, Neil Canton and Don Carmody. Producers Mark Canton and Elie Samaha. Screenplay Gerald DiPego. Cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski. Editor Jerry Greenberg. Music Marco Beltrami. Costumes Marie-Sylvie Deveau. Production designer Dean Tavoularis. Art director Dennis Davenport. Set decorator Enrico Campana. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. Jennifer Lopez as Sharon Pogue. Jim Caviezel as Catch. Sonia Braga as Josephine Pogue. Terrence Howard as Robby.