Enough (2002) from Mick Locke and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Is it okay to be entertained and satisfied viewing a film with contrived circumstances, a Swiss cheese plot, and an implausible outcome to a final battle royal?  If that outcome's what we'd hoped for, yes it is.
   This is a predator-and-prey suspense flick with strong acting, clearly depicted characterization of good gal vs. bad guy, and a plot which - though cheesy - keeps on truckin'.  In a solid star turn, Jennifer Lopez plays Slim, a diner waitress who lucks into a seemingly Cinderella marriage with a rich and handsome big guy.  By the time she realizes that their initial encounter was a scam, she's been cheated on, slapped, punched, beaten while attempting to flee, and relentlessly pursued.  With a Rambolina twist, only when she trains herself for physical combat and fights back does she triumph.
   Valiantly assisting JLo-as-Slim to make this film work is Billy Campbell, playing her villainous control-freak husband, Mitch. Let's hear it for bad guys! Without 'em, good guys and good gals would look lame. As Mitch, Campbell is a helluva good bad guy.  He's smug, sinister, persistent, persuasive, at times charming and wry, and most of all scary and hulking. Early in the film, he alarms us by using a veiled threat to cajole a geezer into selling his house at an above-market price. But the real tip-off is when we watch JLo slip off her wifely bathrobe (viewed by us from behind, above the waist, alas) and he rebuffs her come-on. This guy is up to no good.
   Supporting actors include Juliette Lewis as Slim's best friend Ginny and Fred Ward as her biological father Jupiter (no, not the god, just a fortuitously filthy-rich guy).  So captivating on the screen are those two that you wanna segue into alternative films with each as principal character.  But, you accept their brief scenes with gratitude, like Charlton Heston's bit in Wayne's World.  If this character has only one line, let it be delivered by a Star!
   Unlike the graphic wife-beating brutality of films like What's Love Got to do With It and Once Were Warriors, this movie is mercifully non-graphic.  The made-for-TV plot is matched by three rather fastidious scenes of physical abuse - precluding the final bloody donnybrook.  To his first slap and punch, JLo offers no resistance.  On attempting to flee and getting caught, she's subjected to mostly off-screen blows which leave no viewable bruises.  And in what should have been the final fight, she gets shoved and choked, but escapes.  The kid gets shoved, too.
   Yes, they've upped the ante from Julia Roberts's Sleeping With the Enemy.  This fleeing wife must cart along a wailing five-year-old daughter.  But the kid plays along.  At one point, their cover having been blown, rendering not just their original but also their sham identities unusable, the child is asked by a kindly old waitress, "What's your name?"  She matter-of-factly replies, "I-don't-know." 
   Sad to say, Hollywood is incapable of making a credible film about a beaten wife, since the requisite happy ending always requires resources beyond those of most battered women.  In What's Love..., Tina Turner has talent and celebrity to fall back on.  In Once Were Warriors (a terrific flick from New Zealand), the wife has an entire Maori tribe and village to flee to.  And in this film, JLo has a well-networked surrogate dad who sets her up in a new locale with a job.  And her convenient bio-dad Jupiter sends her a fat stack of fifty-dollar bills with offers of more.  In fact, he sets her up (while Juliette Lewis babysits for a month's vacation in Orlando - how much does that cost?) with the statuesque, deep-voiced, reassuring strong black god of Justice-Through-Kickboxing who trains her alone in a very tony-looking gym.  At this point you'd like to hear the Rocky Balboa theme music.
   For anyone out there who enjoys a good gamble, lemme propose one.  Let's take Michelle Yeoh, the warrior actress from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, who has a couple solid decades of martial arts training.  And let's pit her (the actress, not the character who o'erleaps tall buildings with a single bound) against a hunky, athletic, angry, mean-spirited, violent guy in his physical prime, who's at least half again her weight and easily twice her strength.  Fair fight?  Who'll win?  Safe bet?
  Well then, let's pare down the petite gal's twenty years of martial arts training to a solitary month.  Now what are the odds?  And let's include lessons in cat-burglary so JLo can climb a wall, pick a lock, override the home security system of a wealthy paranoiac, and peer down from the rafters unseen.  This flick's scenes of the Rocky Balboa month with the big dude in the gym apparently left out her evening sessions with Greg Morris teaching all the high-tech skills she suddenly exhibits, unless she picked 'em up waitressing.


 Nudity - only JLo's lovely shoulders from behind.
   The most egregious implausibility is that Slim fights Mitch on his own turf, where he's undoubtedly at his strongest, both tactically and legally.  This she chooses to do, having passed up a primo chance to rub him out on her turf during their prior encounter.  In that instance, she had him temporarily down and disabled (to tell how would spoil one rare, worthy surprise in your viewing) in her own well-prepped digs.  Despite the inconvenient presence of their daughter (who could perhaps be dispatched to hide in a closet, so's not to see this), Slim would have had a primo opportunity to pull out a cached baseball bat and whack the bastard as an illegal intruder.
   But no, that ain't what we bought tickets to see.  And before a grand jury Slim will no doubt explain the fighting rings, boxing tape, and combat boots she put on before her final fight.  She'll explain the high-tech equipment in the bright yellow duffle bag that she sank off the pier at Mitch's marina.  She'll explain the month of kickboxing in prep and the impressive results of bloodying the bejesus out of Mitch in his own home before her final bodacious kick hurtles him through a high railing to his skull-cracking death.  That stuff doesn't matter to us in the audience.  We bought tickets to see an abuser get his ass whupped by the woman he'd abused.  We want to see that little gal kick the everlivin' spit outta his surly deserving carcass.  Viscerally, this is a satisfying scene, whether or not it's grossly implausible.  This movie should rent and sell well for a long time.  We all wanna see a bully get his comeuppance.  Or is it godownance?
   Three stars out of five.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

This is one bad movie. Not just bad. Dreadfully, unimaginably, irredeemably bad. In one of the most obscure references in movie reviewing history, Roger Ebert compared this film to "I Spit on Your Grave". He was generous. This film is acted better than "I Spit", which was mostly made with amateurs, but is probably not as good.

It's almost bad beyond calculation:

  • First: no character in the movie is recognizable as a human being, and no sentences resemble authentic human dialogue. The husband here is a handy cardboard psychopath with only the personality characteristics necessary to drive the conflict. The bad guys in "I Spit" were disgusting guys, but obviously like people we have all met.
  • Second: not one single plot twist is remotely plausible. "I Spit" is melodrama, but within the range of something that could actually happen. It isn't just a revenge fantasy, but a revenge story. Enough, on the other hand, is pure contrivance.

You'd think they would have stumbled into something logical at one point or another. Just by accident. For example, J-Lo's biggest problem is that she is a penniless nobody up against a husband who is not only abusive, but the world's second-richest guy. So he's dazzling her with the law as well as his fists. Now J-Lo's biological father, who finally takes an interest in the game, is the world's richest guy, and is even more ruthless than the husband. Isn't that convenient? But as silly as that premise is, they don't even develop it after introducing it. He could hire better lawyers, tougher thugs that the husband. Hell, the dad is so rich and powerful he probably has guys like Dick Cheney, half the Senate, and several members of the Supreme Court in his country club. That would have been a better movie, and would have beaten the bad guy at his own game.

Instead he sends her a few grand and sets her up with Mr. Myagi. In a couple of weeks of waxing on and off, J-Lo becomes The Karate Kid, and then takes the law into her own hands. Perfect.

The film did manage to prove that it is possible to underestimate the taste and intelligence of the American public, after all. They finally rejected it. After a respectable opening week, it hit the skids, taking in only $6 million on its second weekend, despite being in 2600 theaters. It didn't fool the critics either. Many reviewers noted that it was basically an uncredited remake - a rip-off of "Sleeping With The Enemy". (Hey, didn't Double Jeopardy come close enough?) This violates one of the Scoopy unspoken unities - "if you're gonna rip somebody off, make it somebody competent, fer chrissake"

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85:1, and a full screen version

  • no meaningful features (trailer and music video)

From the Library

In the USA each year, four thousand women are killed by their domestic partners.  A good novel which handles this issue realistically is Anna Quindlen's 194-page Black and Blue (published 1998).  There's also a very quickly readable non-fiction book which offers individual photos of forty battered women with several paragraphs transcribed from each as text.  This multifaceted book of photo-spoken portraits by Vera Anderson is entitled A Woman Like You
   Apropos to this movie, several of the women in A Woman Like You are doing prison time for having - in self-defense - killed their abusers.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 1.5/4, Berardinelli 2/4


The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: it doesn't look like it will break even from domestic box alone. As I write this it has grossed only $33 million in three weeks, despite a 2600 screen roll-out, compared to a production budget of $38 million.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Even those addicted to formula Hollywood thriller pills will find this one difficult to swallow.

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