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(2002) (Jennifer Lopez, Billy Campbell) (PG-13)

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Drama/Suspense: After discovering that her husband is an abusive and controlling wife beater, a woman repeatedly tries to escape and get herself and their young daughter to safety.
Slim (JENNIFER LOPEZ) seems to have the perfect life. After working at a diner with her friend Ginny (JULIETTE LEWIS), she's now married to Mitch Hiller (BILLY CAMPBELL) -- a successful and charming businessman who's so tenacious and wealthy that he can seemingly get whatever he wants -- and they have a cute, little daughter, Gracie (TESSA ALLEN).

Yet, things aren't as perfect as they seem. After several years, Slim not only learns that her husband has been having an affair, but that he's also an abusive and controlling wife beater who informs her that since he makes the money, he gets to set the ground rules.

Ginny tells Slim to run away, and after a while, she, Phil (CHRISTOPHER MAHER) and another man help her escape after another beating. Unbeknownst to her, however, Mitch immediately cancels her credit cards, freezes her accounts and quickly discerns where she's hiding. Stating that he can't live without her, Mitch comes after Slim and she and Gracie barely manage to escape.

Heading to Seattle, they meet up with her old friend Joe (DAN FUTTERMAN), but Mitch soon has some menacing thugs hot on her trail. Jupiter (FRED WARD), her successful but emotionally distant father, is of no help to her in San Francisco, so she and Gracie head to Michigan where they try to reinvent themselves so as to throw off Mitch's hounds.

One of them is Robbie (NOAH WYLE), a cop who Mitch manipulates into tracking her down once again. After meeting with a lawyer, Jim Toller (BILL COBBS), about her options, Slim decides to take matters into her own hands by training with a self-defense instructor (BRUCE A. YOUNG) who teaches her how to protect herself and handle Mitch should she encounter him again.

With Mitch then pressing for legal custody of Gracie, Slim is determined to set matters straight and handle her problem once and for all.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Sometimes movies present fantasy style stories where viewers are supposed to identify with and/or fantasize about what some character does during the story, while others offer more realism-based tales. It's not unusual for some to combine both qualities and that's certainly the case with "Enough," the latest starring vehicle for actress Jennifer Lopez.

The tale of an abused wife who's finally had enough and ultimately takes matters into her own hands to end the terror, the film offers some real life food for thought elements, and then turns them into a fantasy where realism doesn't always apply. In short, the film is really just a boogeyman thriller posing as a female empowerment diversion where the monster isn't Jason or Freddy, but rather an abusive and domineering husband. That would be all fine and dandy if not for several readily apparent flaws.

For one, this story has been told before, most notably and specifically in "Sleeping With the Enemy." In that 1991 thriller, Julia Roberts played a woman abused and subjugated by her controlling, perfectionist husband played by Patrick Bergin. When she can't take it anymore, she fakes her own death, reinvents herself in a new town and hopes to live happily ever after, particularly after meeting the friendly guy next door embodied by Kevin Anderson.

Harmony and happiness can't last forever, however, at least not in these sorts of films, and Bergin's character eventually tracks her down, leading to some "Watch out" moments and the standard "Look out, he's not dead" finale.

Director Michael Apted ("Enigma," "The World is Not Enough") and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan ("Bicentennial Man," "Reversal of Fortune") have pretty much re-created most of that here, a point that should leave many viewers with that troubling déjà vu feeling. The other sensation they're likely to have is the inclination to yell out the title back to the screen while watching this effort. That's because it may just be the most contrived and manipulative movie you'll see this season.

From the chapter-like title headings - starting with "Hey" and going from "Get Out" to "You Can Run" - to the many contrivances that permeate the proceedings, the filmmakers have turned a domestic abuse story into a far too obvious boogeyman flick where most everything that's present and/or occurs is designed to goose the viewer.

I'm not sure of the exact intent of adding those brief title headings, but they're a bit too successful in foreshadowing/explaining what each "chapter" will deliver. In addition, they only help in making the film seem more fragmented and episodic than it already is.

As far as the boogeyman aspect, I suppose that's an okay intention for viewers wanting that sort of moviegoing experience. Even so, all of the related material is handled with about as much adroitness and tact as occurs in a run of the mill, serial killer on the loose horror flick. Rather than possessing apparently superhuman strength, the villain here has superhuman knowledge over others and the ability to discern, rather easily, the whereabouts of the victim.

At least in "SWTE," that occurred only once. Here it repeatedly happens to the point of utter ludicrousness, which also holds true for how that character manipulates others into doing his dirty work for him (they're either too willing or not wise enough to realize the potential ramifications of their obvious actions), as well as the abundance of convenient timing and occurrences.

Another related and similarly debilitating flaw is that the plot and character actions and motivations elicit far too many questions, resulting in the viewer being distracted and thus pulled out of the proceedings. That's the last thing a film of this sort wants to cause, but most everyone will wonder why Mitch is so intent on finding and having Slim all to himself.

After all, we see how he's able to get anything and everything he wants (although that's not presented in enough of a convincing fashion to make it completely believable). The fact that she disobeyed him comes to mind, but that's not enough to drive his character and thus the plot. With a few, easy to install explanations (such as Slim having a trust he wants to get his hands on, or his rich mother stating he has to remain married to get his inheritance), many of the problems (other than the "SWTE" similarities) could have been fixed. Unfortunately, the sloppy sledgehammer approach was the one ultimately selected for use and many viewers will end up doing far too much eye rolling and head scratching as a result.

Disregarding the plot and character related problems, the performances are generally solid. Jennifer Lopez ("Angel Eyes," "The Wedding Planner") makes for a credible and thus sympathetic wife and mother, while Billy Campbell ("The Rocketeer," TV's "Once and Again") is effective as her manipulative and controlling husband.

Young Tessa Allen (TV's "Providence") is uncomfortably realistic as a child caught in the domestic mayhem, while Noah Wyle ("The Myth of Fingerprints," TV's "ER") makes for an appropriately slimy corrupt cop and Dan Futterman ("The Birdcage," TV's "Judging Amy") is okay in the Kevin Anderson good guy role.

Meanwhile, Juliette Lewis ("The Other Sister," "Natural Born Killers") is good in her normal role playing the supportive best friend, but Fred Ward ("Corky Romano," "Summer Catch") is pretty much wasted as the deadbeat turned partially heroic father.

It's just too bad that so much of the film is heavy-handed, manipulative and contrived, or simply so hard to believe. While some viewers will probably be sucked into the story and its repeated boogeyman scares, and they and others will obviously root for J-Lo to kick some comeuppance-deserving butt, most everyone else will see through this forced effort. "Enough" is more than enough, but not in the right way, and thus rates as just a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed May 22, 2002 / Posted May 24, 2002

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