Less than three months after her forgettable turn in the anemic "The Wedding Planner", chanteuse Jennifer Lopez is back on the big screen in director Luis Mandoki's "Angel Eyes". Unfortunately, "Angel Eyes" is the same old sloppy drivel that Mandoki has been shoveling in his last two films, "Message in a Bottle" and "When a Man Loves a Woman". Though one might think from the trailer that "Angel Eyes" is some sort of supernatural romance à la "City of Angels", it is actually a much more conventional drama-romance-- and a muddled one to boot.
J. Lo plays tough Chicago police officer Sharon Pogue, who is very good at her job. Unfortunately, to cope with the rigors of walking the beat, Sharon has unconsciously built a wall around herself, making it almost impossible for her to develop emotional intimacy with others, let alone see the good in the people around her. Exacerbating this is a long-running feud with her estranged family, stemming from having arrested her own father (Victor Argo of "Coyote Ugly") for assaulting her mother (Sonia Braga of "Kiss of the Spider Woman") many years back.
One day, while Sharon is having coffee with her fellow officers, the restaurant is raked by the gunfire of a drive-by shooting. A foot chase ensues, and Sharon finds herself a split-second from being shot in the head by her own gun. Fortunately, she is saved in the nick of time by a stranger who calls himself Catch (James Caviezel of "Pay It Forward"), who had been admiring her from afar only a few moments before the drive-by. Naturally, Sharon finds herself intrigued by her mysterious savior, and before you know it, romance blossoms. Unfortunately, Sharon also learns that Catch is much like herself, someone who has encircled themselves with psychological walls to shield them from the pain of the past.
I can certainly appreciate what screenwriter Gerald Di Pego ("Instinct") was trying to do in "Angel Eyes" in terms of paralleling the development of Sharon and Catch, two loners so traumatized by their respective pasts that they are unable to find peace in the present. Unfortunately, there is a sheen of sloppiness that permeates the entire film, touching almost every aspect, from the writing, to the acting, and even to the production itself, making it very difficult to take the script's noble aspirations seriously.
Despite some mildly interesting subtext, the script is rife with clunky dialogue that may inadvertently provoke laughter (or at least induce frequent attacks of eye-rolling), including a verbose soliloquy delivered by Caviezel at his character's 'breakthrough' moment that would have probably been moving if it wasn't so corny. Though the leads are competent actors, with Lopez having done memorable work in "Out of Sight" and "The Cell" and Caviezel acquitted himself nicely in "The Thin Red Line", they don't really share any on-screen chemistry. Their scenes together are so awkward to watch that it destroys any chance of credibility in the relationship between their characters. Furthermore, Caviezel's penetrating yet quiet presence works against him, giving his character too much of a creepy angle (one scene in which Catch explains why his dog's name is Bob ends up stirring up visions of 'Son of Sam' David Berkowitz because of this). Finally, though the story takes place in Chicago, Mandoki does not even try to disguise the fact that the film was shot in Toronto. This, of course, leads to a game of 'spot the landmark', with the film's sloppily-conceived shots capturing famous Toronto sights, such as the city's skyline with the CN Tower in plain view, Jilly's Tavern, and Honest Ed's Emporium.
With its careless approach to script, acting, and production, it doesn't take very long for the seams of this formula-driven film to show, which mixes up hard-hitting drama, romance, and mysticism into one big muddled mess. Mind you, residents of Toronto and the surrounding areas might get a kick out of seeing how little effort is expended in trying to disguise Toronto as the Windy City. Unfortunately, everyone else will find "Angel Eyes" to be painfully out of focus.