Jennifer Lopez plays a battered wife in "Enough," and at first she's excellent. But it's symptomatic of what's wrong with this movie that by the end, we have trouble believing she's in any real danger. Despite a story that starts off convincingly, this movie turns into melodramatic, revenge-crazy Hollywood mush. Yet playing Slim, the abused wife of the charming but brutal rich tyrant Mitch (Billy Campbell), Lopez gets everything right at the start. We can believe her as a sensitive, sensual, smart young waitress who falls in love with a handsome customer and suddenly discovers she's married to a maniac and liar. The first half of "Enough" - where Slim recognizes her trap and flees, running away from her California home for a life in hiding - is a good domestic thriller. But the movie, written by Nicholas Kazan ("Reversal of Fortune") and directed by Michael Apted ("The World is Not Enough"), can't keep its secrets well enough.
Slim recovers too fast. For someone hurled into a nightmare and forced to live on the run, she gets too self-confident far too soon. By the time Slim is taught deadly kung fu toward the end of the picture, she acts like someone who can handle any attacker with dispatch, like someone we don't have to worry about: J-Lo the Conqueror.
Slim may be beaten, threatened and chased around America by the sadistic and amoral Mitch, slipping from one new identity to another and shepherding her daughter, Grace (Tessa Allen), while getting occasional aid from buddy Ginny (Juliette Lewis) or her mysterious maybe-dad, Jupiter (Fred Ward). But just like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone (and just as unconvincingly), we sense she'll kick butt in the end.
Her antagonist, Mitch, is a good villain, easy to hate. Campbell plays him with just the right swagger and smugness. Mitch is a guy who knows that he can bend the truth and the system, and that his smile and money will always keep him safe. When Slim confronts him, though, there's no real surprise or gratification - no feeling, as there might have been in life, of battling against injustice and long odds. It's just the standard empty, vicious, predictable ending any Hollywood hack could have slammed out - and Kazan is far from a hack. Neither is Apted; it's his strong sense of social determinism that keeps the first half so interesting.
I'm not suggesting that Lopez should have been weepier every time Mitch sneered and slugged her or pulled another rotten rich bully's stunt. Julia Roberts' Erin Brockovich didn't convey vulnerability, but you still understood that the deck was so stacked against her, she had to think and fight her way out of it. In "Enough," the climax is a cheat and a bloody cliche.
"Enough" is one of those movies that starts like a house afire, catches you firmly in its narrative grip and then suddenly blows itself out, not really going out with a whimper but with a big, bad, ludicrous bang.
Too bad. This little fable about battered women who turn on their abusers has our sympathy, and for a while, it does create its own little world. But, for us - and J-Lo, too - that world is not enough.
2 1/2 stars
Directed by Michael Apted; written by Nicholas Kazan; photographed by Rogier Stoffiers; edited by Rick Shaine; production designed by Doug Kraner; music by David Arnold; produced by Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowan. A Columbia Pictures release; opens Friday, May 24. Running time: 1:55. MPAA rating: PG-13 (intense scenes of domestic violence, some sensuality and language).
Slim - Jennifer Lopez
Mitch - Billy Campbell
Gracie - Tessa Allen
Ginny - Juliette Lewis
Joe - Dan Futterman
Robbie - Noah Wyle Jupiter - Fred Ward
Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune Movie Critic.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times