Fly girl blues

Pop icon Jennifer Lopez can’t save the tired cop drama Angel Eyes

DIVA STREET BLUES The beautiful R&B/pop diva Jennifer Lopez plays a tough-as-nails cop in the ass-backwards thriller Angel Eyes.<p></p>

DIVA STREET BLUES The beautiful R&B/pop diva Jennifer Lopez plays a tough-as-nails cop in the ass-backwards thriller Angel Eyes.

Angel Eyes
Starring Jennifer Lopez and Jim Caviezel. Directed by Luis Mandoki. Rated R.
Rated 2.0

Jennifer Lopez has enough moxie to persevere through the angelic metaphors and therapeutic wigwagging of a hodgepodge drama traveling under the name Angel Eyes, but she exits the same way she entered—as a pop icon pretending to act. And neither she nor co-star Jim Caviezel, who really can act, can save this film from its own transparent disguises.

Lopez has the role of a tough young Chicago cop who hits hard in the line of duty and fights a solitary battle with family-abuse issues the rest of the time. Caviezel plays a mysterious, vaguely angelic loner who takes an increasingly personal interest in her welfare. Soon enough, the two of them are embroiled in a wildly uneven love story. The film itself labors, somewhat obliviously, through a lumpy mixture of police drama, pop surrealism, family melodrama, psychodrama, therapeutic fable, and psychic friends’ instruction.

None of this ever really gels dramatically, and the wholesale grafting of disparate modes is especially conspicuous in the blatantly mismatched performances of the lead players. Caviezel trails Method-actor clouds of sorrow and angst with every move he makes, while Lopez brings a music-video swagger to her character’s every mood. Both characters have set-piece monologues near the end, and hers has a certain cold intensity while his falls surprisingly flat. But the emotional vacuum is large enough that the film repeatedly must resort to shopworn tricks of soundtrack music for signs of passion.

As it happens, the musical cueing of obligatory emotions is just one of the film’s televisual tendencies. Much of the police-story portion looks like a more-macho-than-thou fantasy in which Lopez gets to be one of the stand-up guys in a Chicago version of NYPD Blue, and the therapeutic melodrama reeks of an imaginary trial wedding between the Lifetime Channel and the Hallmark Hall of Fame. The R rating, presumably for the violence and rough language in the early reels, ends up looking like window dressing of the most dubious sort.

The veterans in the supporting cast (Shirley Knight, Sonia Braga, etc.) give apparent added heft to the dramatic potential, but their aura of lived experience and earned emotion is just what Jennifer Lopez lacks in this role. She might be perfectly adequate for a gangsta girl role in a TV series, but she’s stuck mimicking cop show shtick when this film takes its swipes at dramatic depth.