on May 24, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
   "Sleeping with the Enemy" is the film that comes immediately to mind upon seeing the trailer for dancer-turned-actress-turned-pop-singer-turned-movie-star Jennifer Lopez's latest foray into filmdom. It's an appropriate evocation: There's a lot of that old Julia Roberts vehicle here, as the comely and saintly wife braves her sadistic husband's abuses to save herself and her child. But there's a bit of "Rocky" and a touch of "Death Wish," too, with violin moments in which the protagonist is beaten down by the vicious opponent, seemingly defeated, only to triumphantly rise up to fight. It was the violin moments that made those other films great. Here, they're just grating.

   The coy opening sequences introduce Slim (Lopez) as she meets and marries Mitch (the shrewdly counter-cast Bill Campbell of the weepy television series "Once and Again," on which he did a good deal of the weeping). It's one of those perfect knight-in-shining-armor scenarios in which he scoops her out of a meaningless life as a diner waitress and gives her everything she wants: a beautiful house, security, a baby girl. He's even kinda sexy. She actually gets the dream we are led to believe most women wish for. Then she's forced to pay for it. He cheats on her. And worse, tells her to shut up about it, that a fella does that from time to time, and if she knows what's good for her...yada yada.

   Unlike the timid character from "Sleeping with the Enemy," Slim ain't having it. She splits. And so does he, psychologically speaking, as latent alter ego Psychotic Mitch pops out fully formed with a host of abilities to make Slim's life miserable. He freezes her accounts, sends goons to harass her, and even traces her when she flees to another city. He's like Batman...evil Batman. What's a girl to do? Apparently she learns Israeli Martial Arts and beats evil Batman's ass. Which in itself is a cool notion and even fun to watch, but the contrivances to get there are simply too preposterous and laborious to sit through. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Bill Campbell, Tessa Allen and Juliette Lewis. Directed by Michael Apted. Written by Nicholas Kazan. Produced by Rob Cowan and Irwin Winkler. A Columbia release. Drama/Thriller. Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of domestic violence, some sensuality and language. Running time 115 min

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