11 June 2005 | Danusha_Goska
A *Good* "Bad Movie"
If you're a hard core movie fan, you learn to appreciate good "Bad Movies." There are movies that go so far off the tracks in terms of one or several essential features of film art -- casting, script, sets, pacing, editing, lighting, coherence -- that there is no way that you could, being honest, recommend them without qualifications to an unsuspecting viewer.
Movies that go off the tracks in these essentials and offer no redeeming features are just plain Bad Movies. You you make fun of them, and then you forget about them.
But some Bad Movies offer, amidst the badness, unique moments of grace and truth. You allow yourself to be sucked in, and you studiously ignore or forgive all the screw-ups that went into making them "Bad Movies." "Angel Eyes" is a *Good* Bad Movie.
Why Bad? Genre incoherence is the biggest problem here. "Angel Eyes" was marketed as a supernatural thriller that offered spooky, scary insights into fate, love, danger, and perhaps life after death. Ads, and the first portion of the movie, hinted at a weird alternate identity for one character. Was he a ghost? An angel? A devil? Would "Angel Eyes" be another "Sixth Sense" or "Wings of Desire"? That's all just smokescreen. I'm not revealing any spoilers by saying that no one in the movie is a ghost, an angel, or a devil; that conceit from the ads is jettisoned pretty quickly.
There is a subtext of fate, destiny, love and death, but that isn't worked really hard, either. That whole subtext could have been skipped and you'd still have pretty much the same movie.
The movie you get is a movie about traumatized people finding love and rebirth. And that is one great theme.
Another problem with the movie is its misunderstanding of how quickly people can recover from trauma. But, hey.
I say "but, hey," because this movie has a lot going for it, and it's worth seeing for what it has going for it.
Jim Caviezel is an underrated actor. He's not wooden; he's subtle. It's tragic that we've gotten to an era where audience's eyes can't appreciate a quiet actor in the Gary Cooper mode.
Caviezel is a worthy inheritor of the Gary Cooper mantle. He's stunningly handsome, has a big, gorgeous body -- he's a former basketball player, and it shows -- and he possesses Cooper's quiet masculine tenderness and humility.
All these qualities have allowed him to strike the perfect note of a very male spirituality in a number of films, from "Frequency" to "Thin Red Line" to "Pay It Forward" to "The Passion" to "Angel Eyes." In his early scenes, when the movie doesn't want you to know quite what he's about, he is perfect as a perhaps ghost-angel-devil-weirdo homeless bum-savior.
He's equally good, later, as an entirely corporeal lover.
He plays a wounded man, and Caviezel has the gifts to convey his character's inner pain. You believe that he cares as much as he does about what wounded him; you believe that his wounds could have done to him what the movie wants you to believe they did to him.
Jennifer Lopez is equally good. Face it -- Jennifer Lopez is a fine actress. Yes, she appears on tabloid covers. Yes, she made "Gigli." Yes, she poses in naughty clothes a lot. Yes, she is a Puerto Rican from the Bronx.
And you know what? She's a fine actress. Don't let her non-silver-spoon pedigree keep you from appreciating what she can do on screen.
Lopez is as good as a cop here as she was in the more celebrated film, "Out of Sight." She's winning, charismatic, natural, and lovely to look at. Even in a white t-shirt and navy blue cop uniform slacks, she is beautiful.
Like Caviezel, Lopez plays a wounded character ready to be reborn by love. She's equally as good as he, but she conveys her different wounds in a different way. One wounded person retreats; another lashes out in violence. It's interesting to see which party picks which method.
Sonia Braga is in this movie. Any movie with Sonia Braga in it can't be all bad.
Victor Argo, in a very small part as a very flawed man, is JUST PERFECT. 100% believable and heart-wrenching. I'll never forget his moments locked in silent misery, a misery he causes and a misery he feels.
Finally, there is a not-to-be-missed scene between an abused family member and the abuser. A character speaks into a video camera at a family reunion and ... the scene just took my breath away. At that point I wanted to cry and surrender my full respect to the movie, in spite of everything it had done wrong so far.
Don't let bad reviews prevent you from seeing this movie. Nothing's perfect. There's enough heart and beauty here for the discerning viewer to appreciate.