A film that was concocted to provide a vehicle for a rising star, in this case, Jennifer Lopez. As a story it has a hollow, artificial ring to it and the characters portrayed are given as much life as a superficial script allows. It seems a project that should have remained in turnaround if it ever, indeed, got that far.
At best, it provided some work for a couple of quite interesting actors and one adorable child actress, so it isn't all bad. It just seems like it was done for crass, exploitative reasons. Not enough.
Slim (Jennifer Lopez), a waitress in a greasy spoon diner, becomes Mitch's (Bill Campbell) wife after meeting and falling for him in a ruse designed by him and cop pal Robbie (Noah Wylie) to make her go for him. It works (unconvincingly). They have a child, Gracie (Tessa Allen) whom they both adore. But then Mitch reveals his true colors, that of a violent, abusive, controlling freako who demands that Slim accept his life style. She is not the type. The story becomes the standard fare of battered wife escaping with child from dangerous husband. But there's a twist. This wife goes out and gets hand to hand combat lessons. As though.
Shades of 1997's "G.I. Jane". At least that film made training to the point of world class somewhat credible with convincing training time and methodology and Demi Moore's body development. Here, however, we're expected to accept Slim can best a man in presumably top condition after a few onscreen totally unconvincing moments with a trainer. That's not the least of what we're asked to buy in this pot boiler created out of whole cloth.
The compensation for watching this melodrama are, as said, a few of the actors who are most notable for work outside the movie arena. Dan Futterman, for example, who plays Amy's brother in TV's "Judging Amy", is as fine a character performer as there is. Notably, he's a softy, warmth and sensitivity written all over him, and that quality is conveyed in spades herein as he, an old boyfriend, provides safe harbor for the harried mother and daughter on the run. He's convincing in this without trying. At least director Michael Apted got something right.
In the context, Noah Wyle, Dr. Carter on TV's "ER", is interesting for almost the same reason. This actor's natural affinity is in human perception and empathy, amply demonstrated in the series and making him a standout as a doctor with a bedside manner that captures you. Here, however, in his role as a mean, hardened cop gone bad, he's not only playing against type, it's against the natural gifts he possesses. One sympathizes with his unsuccessful attempts to provide a context for a character so poorly delineated. Not so good for him, nor for director Apted.
Both are solid actors with very promising futures awaiting the right roles.
Juliette Lewis is fine and fun as sidekick and fellow waitress Ginny, and perfectly fitting in this appearance. You may remember her last from 1994's "Natural Born Killers" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" the year before, being the last really memorable uses of her unique persona.
Finally, in terms of acting and casting that works in the context of such superficial material is little Tessa Allen, plucked from another TV series, "Providence". She's a natural as the object of her parents' affections, and provides some of the few truthful moments in a work of such contrivance.
And, if Jennifer Lopez is a certified rising star, she'd better come up with better material than this to promote what she can do on the big screen. Maybe in a story that was written out of the gut of a seriously intentioned and motivated writer, not one just doing a job to provide fodder for the celluloid mill. Screenwriter Nicholas Kazan might want to consider leaving this one off his list of credits.
Enough, is right.