Angel Eyes

on May 18, 2001 by Wade Major
The fact that the major studios do such an expert job of marketing bad movies makes it all the more distressing when they appear to have no idea how to promote a good one. Such is the case with Warner Bros.' "Angel Eyes," a meditative, character-driven romance which, for reasons unknown, is being pushed like some kind of supernatural thriller in the vein of "The Sixth Sense." Notwithstanding the drawing power of star Jennifer Lopez, Warner Bros.' misguided sales pitch seems fated to alienate almost everyone, duping thriller buffs into a movie they aren't likely to enjoy while keeping the picture's natural audience at bay with some of the most distastefully deceptive advertising in recent memory.

The romance in question pairs two troubled souls: Sharon Pogue (Lopez), a tough Chicago policewoman who has become estranged from her family, and "Catch" (James Caviezel), a mysterious yet gentle loner. It's suggested in the film's prologue that the two first met one year earlier when Sharon helped save Catch's life at the scene of a grisly automobile accident. Though neither appears to remember that previous encounter, something seems to draw them together. For Sharon, Catch is an anchor, the emotional rock that her dismal family and personal relationships have failed to provide over the years. He's caring, understanding and ferociously principled. At the same time, he's clearly odd: He doesn't drive, lives in an unfurnished slum apartment and refuses to disclose any details about his prior life. In Sharon, Catch finds something more abstract, someone who clearly needs to give and receive love, despite her own best efforts to the contrary.

Excepting a handful of early scenes showing Sharon in the heat of beat police work, "Angel Eyes" has none of the genre staples that thriller fans might be expecting: There are no car chases, no gunfights, no spooky surprises, no lurking plot twists. What it does deliver is a simple, humanistic honesty and an approach to unconventional romance that rings resoundingly true.

Credit for the achievement lies squarely with writer Gerald Di Pego and ace actor's director Luis Mandoki ("When A Man Loves A Woman"). By refusing to allow the film to wander into the waters of the tried, tested and pre-fabricated mass appeal swamp, Di Pego, Mandoki and their actors have inadvertently handed Warner Brothers a specialty film which the studio is entirely unqualified to release. It is hoped that Lopez's star power will prove sufficient to keep the film in theatres long enough for word-of-mouth to correct the marketing gaffes. With blockbuster season fast approaching, however, time is running out. Starring Jennifer Lopez, James Caviezel, Sonia Braga and Terrence Howard. Directed by Luis Mandoki. Written by Gerald Di Pego. Produced by Bruce Berman, Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann and Elie Samaha. A Warner Bros. release. Romance. Rated R for language, violence and a scene of sexuality. Running time: 103 min

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