“Sleeping With the Enemy II: The Revenge” might have been the original title of Jennifer Lopez’s slickly made but extraordinarily crass thriller about a wife who flees from her violent spouse and decides to take him on rather than waiting for him–the legal system providing so little protection for beaten women–to track her down and kill her. “Enough”–a title which almost invites sarcastic brickbats which the present reviewer will steadfastly resist–is, however, inferior to Julia Roberts’ decade-old suspenser, which wasn’t all that good to begin with. It’s basically a feminine-friendly Lifetime Network movie to which a kick-ass finale has been added for the action crowd. Though it has a certain cheap visceral power, you’ll probably leave it feeling about as abused as its battered but determined heroine.
The plot is about as simple as you can get. Slim (Lopez) is a supposedly bright San Francisco waitress swept off her feet by Mitch (Billy Campbell), a rich, handsome fellow who saves her from the wiles of a predatory admirer (Noah Wyle). In a flash they’re not only wed but the parents of a cute-as-a-button daughter named Gracie (Tessa Allen). Things seem wonderful until Slim discovers that Mitch is guilty of infidelity, at which point he abruptly turns into a complete monster, willing to keep her in line with his fists. With the aid of her uncle Phil (Christopher Maher) and best pal Ginny (Juliette Lewis), Slim manages to escape Mitch’s dastardly clutches with Gracie, but once she’s on the run–first to old college boyfriend Joe (Dan Futterman) and then, after he’s threatened by Mitch’s hired goons, to more obscure locales–her furious husband uses every underhanded resource to locate and menace her. As a custody court date looms, she finally consults a lawyer–an avuncular black man–but since the character is played by the virtually unknown Bill Cobbs rather than by Morgan Freeman, it’s obvious that the narrative isn’t about to turn into the sort of courtroom battle with which the story would have concluded on Lifetime. Instead, the attorney’s unhelpful assessment of her situation convinces Slim to take a month off, train herself in the art of physical conflict and then, newly buffed up, confront the vile Mitch in his own pad. It’s kill or be killed, you see; but can our heroine not only stand up to her brutal spouse but bring herself cold-bloodedly to wreak ultimate justice on him?
As constructed by Nicholas Kazan (who reached his screenwriting peak with “Reversal of Fortune” and has been working his way down ever since), this crudely obvious tale is replete with nasty episodes that manipulate viewers into loathing Mitch and sympathizing with Slim’s hopelessness. Kazan also periodically inserts opportunities for shocks, which director Michael Apted and editor Rick Shaine seize on with an absolute vengeance, abetted by the ominous music and slashing aural effects provided by composer David Arnold. The result is effective enough, but in a sleazy, ham-fisted way, and the performances are no more subtle. J-Lo gets to show both her tender side and her musculature, but she’s not a strong enough actress to disguise the fact that Slim, who refuses to bring the cops in from the start, seems pretty dense, especially since as Campbell plays him, Mitch appears from the get-go to be a pretty unstable sort of guy. Wyle is blandly smarmy and Futterman likable enough in a nebbishy sort of way, but Allen, adorable though she is, is way overused in terms of sugary-cute reaction shots. (Thankfully Apted at least avoids having a dog on hand to cut to in the ultimate effort at pandering.) Indeed, the only pleasant surprises on the thespian side are Lewis, much less mannered than usual as Slim’s steadfast friend, and Fred Ward, who oozes smug charm as our heroine’s father, who’s never admitted his paternity but helps her out when he comes to admire her spunk.
What really lowers one’s ability to stomach “Enough,” though, isn’t its cinematic weakness; it’s the rather vile reduction of a serious social problem to the realm of vigilante melodrama–in its feminist way it’s as irresponsible as the Charles Bronson “Death Wish” movies were in theirs. The message of the movie is, ultimately, that the justice system is so corrupt and feeble that the only effective response to spousal abuse is to fight fire with fire. At least in the region where the present reviewer resides, the past few years have seen a virtual epidemic of domestic violence, frequently resulting in the deaths of ex-wives and very often of their children as well. The problem is one in desperate need of corrective legislation and deserving of thoughtful, incisive, challenging dramatic treatment, but this picture instead uses the issue as the basis for the most simpleminded sort of revenge thriller. By the time that bones are cracking and blood spurting in the protracted showdown between Slim and Mitch, you can’t help but feel that there’s something reprehensible about treating so horrible a reality on such a grossly sensationalistic level. “Enough” may succeed in raising your pulse rate, but its lack of a social conscience should really make your blood boil.