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Angel Eyes (2001)
is a film that can't seem to make up its mind. Is
it a romance? Suspense police drama? Supernatural thriller? It's never obvious, and the film plays its cards
maddeningly close to the vest throughout. For
most of its story numerous obtuse yet seemingly significant clues are grudgingly dispensed
and the audience is led to various dead ends. By
its conclusion it turns out to have been All Of The Above, not very good at any of them,
and the viewer is left with an overwhelming sense of "So what?"
Sharon Pogue (Jennifer Lopez) is a street-smart (is there any other kind in the movies?) Chicago cop who's ambushed during a foot pursuit through an inner-city neighborhood. Only the last-minute appearance of a civilian thwarts the attack and saves her life. The civilian, a man who calls himself simply "Catch" (Jim Caviezel) is a quiet and disheveled sort with no visible means of support and reticent to reveal much about himself. Naturally, Sharon is intrigued, even more so after her partner runs a police database search on Catch and comes up empty he's a man without a past, or apparently even a present. She is intrigued enough to learn more and as she gets closer becomes more attracted to him.
The next hour of the film is spent plodding through numerous repetitions of the same basic scene. Sharon learns a fragment of information about Catch and she confronts him. He reacts angrily, insists she doesnt understand but doesnt want to explain more. She says she's only asking because she cares and wants to know what he's so afraid about. This cycle is repeated ad nauseam, interspersed with disjointed scenes of Sharon at work. Catch is shown either stalking Sharon, wandering aimlessly through the city, delivering groceries to a "mysterious" shut-in, or sitting in his large and very empty apartment assembling IKEA furniture.
The main problem is that after about three variations on this theme without any progress in either the story or character development, there's little reason for anyone to care. A couple of sub-plots are thrown in along the way some are partially resolved, some disappear without a trace. Even within an individual scene the film is fragmented, as characters will switch from love to anger to indifference in nanoseconds without any apparent motivation. The entire film appears to have been written, then chopped up and thrown in a bingo drum, the story constructed based on what scene or line of dialog was pulled out next. The apparent intent was for the film to have its details gradually filled in over time, but it's more like an artist who does one quick sketch, then throws it out to start over on something completely different.
Jennifer Lopez plays Sharon as someone whose hidden past (another of those pesky and unsatisfying sub-plots) has made her tougher than she needs to be. She manages to take the scattershot script and provide a small measure of continuity via a restrained performance, but eventually the crazy-quilt story and dialog require her to shift emotional gears once too often to remain believable. Jim Caviezel seems to be trying to corner the market on unkempt and brooding earnestness, here his Catch is merely the 2001 version of a character he's played often before in films like The Thin Red Line and Pay It Forward. He's supposed to be intriguing and mysterious but instead is a vacant non-entity. Gertrude Stein's comment about Oakland ("There's no there there.") would readily apply.
The film eventually does make one good point that our lives are made up of individual minutes, and we shouldnt waste any of them hiding the truth about our feelings from the people we care about but that message is revealed much too late in a Caviezel monologue that's intended to be poignant but instead turns cloying. Angel Eyes is a romance without love, a suspense drama without tension, a thriller without excitement.
- Bob Aulert