Enough Review

I think most of us would agree that domestic violence is a very serious and troubling issue which deserves to be treated on screen in an equally serious and adult manner. There is certainly scope for a very interesting film about the ethical dilemmas inherent in a situation where a person feels trapped in a cycle of abuse. Enough, needless to say, isn’t that film. Instead, it’s a glossy, mindless exploitation flick dressed up with all the glitz Hollywood can muster but with absolutely nowhere to go.

Believe me, you already know the plot but I’ll give you the basics. Slim (Lopez) is a waitress who, following one of the silliest meeting-cutes in movie history, embarks on a whirlwind romance with wealthy building contractor Mitch (Campbell) and ends up with, seemingly, the perfect hubby and a precocious daughter. But Mitch is not what he seems and before you can say “Patrick Bergin in Sleeping With The Enemy”, he’s slapping six bells out of Slim and even pushing the little one about. This clearly cannot go on but every time Slim tries to escape, Mitch finds her. The police can’t help, her waitress friend (Juliette Lewis) is pretty useless and even a high powered lawyer simply tells her that there’s nothing to be done. So Slim gets a bit of girl power, learns some martial arts and, with all the exciting unpredictability of day following night, turns the tables on Mitch.

Now, I have nothing against exploitation movies in themselves - some of my favourite films are nothing but honest exploitation and all the better for it. But there’s nothing worse than the most cynical commercial exploitation masquerading as a ‘serious’ movie. Think (or rather don’t) of The Accused, Lipstick, Death Wish, Irreversible, Mark of the Devil... - the list goes on and on. Directors earnestly talking about how ‘relevant’ and well-intentioned their films are, audiences being gulled into going to see films because they approve of a superficially serious approach to the subject matter and then being beaten over the head by hopelessly manipulative, reactionary sentiments which would be insulting if they weren’t so crudely presented. A good exploitation movie works because it has no pretentions to be anything but entertainment - if it offers nourishment for the brain as well then all the better. At it’s best, a good exploiter can become genuinely profound and oddly beautiful, a kind of art in itself - Dirty Harry would be a good example or The Big Combo. Enough doesn’t have the guts to admit that its just commercial trash,and pretends instead to be making serious points about wife beating. These being that (a) wife beating is not a good thing, (b) husbands who beat their wives are not nice and, er, (c) J-Lo looks pretty cool in her workout togs. Given that everyone in their right mind already knows points (a) and (b), there’s nothing for the film to do but stamp them into the ground until it can get to point (c) and offer a bit of action. This might a genuine catharsis in a better film but in these surroundings it’s simply pandering to the worst instincts of the audience.

So, to hell with good intentions - does the film work as a bad taste suspense thriller ? Well, no it doesn’t. Michael Apted is a good actor’s director, as he’s proved time and time again and, on occasion, proves here, but he is not a filmmaker who can develop the sort of rhythm required for nail-biting tension. Give him an intelligent screenplay and he can produce a very watchable film - Coal Miner’s Daughter, Enigma, The Squeeze, P’Tang Yang Kipperbang and the exceptional TV movie Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned - but his pacing is off in this film and every single opportunity for suspense is lost because we are always one step ahead of him. The decision to make Mitch a sort of Freddy Kreuger / Annie Wilkes figure doesn’t help either. He pops up so often that for much of the time we’re just waiting for him to arrive and do something unpleasant. Billy Campbell’s performance doesn’t help as he seems to have been directed to play his character for a minimum of credibility. Think back to Terry O’Quinn in The Stepfather to see how this sort of man can be made both believable and utterly terrifying. Campbell hams in a very unusual way - his underplaying is so obvious that it becomes overplaying - a similar example is Jack Lemmon’s performance in The China Syndrome.

To be fair, Michael Apted does good work with the actresses. Juliette Lewis is more watchable here than she has been in any film since Natural Born Killers and she manages to add a bit of warmth to a film which is in dire need of some. The child Gracie is beautifully played by a little girl called Tessa Allen who achieves the near impossible by not being TV-batteringly annoying. As for Jennifer Lopez, she’s not at all bad. She still hasn’t manages to regain the fresh and surprising sensuality of her wonderful performance in Out of Sight but this is a committed and mature piece of acting - somewhat wasted in these surroundings. Apparently her committment extended to spending three months learning the ancient martial art of Krav Maga and I hope that she still has enough skill to beat hell out of the evil genius behind this piece of trash. The guilty man shall be named and shamed as Nicholas Kazan and he is, for want of a better noun, the ‘screenwriter’. Kazan wrote the excellent Reversal Of Fortune which was full of nifty dialogue and clever scene construction but he appears to have spent most of the intervening years undergoing the sort of gradual talent dissipation which happens to Fleet Street hacks before they are put out to pasture to spend their days writing the captions for page 3. Not a single scene rings true here, from the opening in a diner - which appears to come from someone whose only experience of a diner is from watching old films - to the unnecessarily extended displays of abuse. The dialogue is flat throughout - Ms Lopez says to a kindly uncle “You’re the best substitute father a girl every had - and sometimes utterly ridiculous. Mitch struts about like Abanazer on his day off, spouting nonsense such as “I am, and always will be, a person who gets what he wants”. Eager not to miss out on this vacuous verbiage, Slim says - to her purported father - “I need you to acknowledge that I’m you’re kid”. Even her martial arts teacher gets in on the act with profound statements like “We bend the universe to our own will”. The lowest point is reached when Juliette Lewis announces, with pained sincerity that “You have a divine, animal right to protect your own life and the life of your offspring.” So endeth the lesson, all contributions gratefully received.

Ms Lopez’s numerous fans will probably enjoy this film and won’t mind that it doesn’t have single idea in its pretty head other than to present a string of violent incidents under the presumption of being ‘serious’. As ever in this sort of thing, violence is presented as the only way out. Puppet characters are pulled in to explain that the law doesn’t offer protection when, statistics demonstrate, it does if sufficient support is given to the abused party. No mention is made of the growing number of shelters to protect battered wives and their children or of the helplines which can offer refuge and support. Enough which preens itself for its bravery in raising a serious issue, simply brings up the subject in order to give a pretext for a tawdry succession of would-be suspenseful scenes and it leaves one wondering whether it has actually helped or done the real-life issue of domestic abuse a disservice. Do yourself a favour - if you want a Lopez movie, watch Out of Sight, if you want a serious drama about domestic violence, track down Gary Oldman’s brilliant Nil By Mouth. Whatever you do, however, don’t bother with Enough.

The Disc

It seems to be an immutable law of DVD that the worse the film, the better the disc. Columbia’s special edition of Enough is no exception and it’s a very good package that is only let down by the film it contains.

The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and has been anamorphically enhanced. It’s an excellent transfer that I can’t really criticise in any way. The image is clean, crisp and rich in colours and contrast. Shadow detail is impressive throughout and the darker scenes are well defined. It’s a pleasure to look at and certainly does justice to the visual side of the film.

The soundtrack is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is impressive without being spectacular. The dialogue is largely confined to the centre but there are some directional exchanges. David Arnold’s forgettable music score is well served and the surrounds occasionally come into play for the sound effects. The subwoofer is used sparingly but to good effect.

There are a number of extra features on this UK release which are not included on the relatively barebones US disc. Firstly, we get two commentaries. The first is by Michael Apted and Nicholas Kazan and is a valuable example of what we might term the higher self-delusion. Both men appear to be proud of the strong feminist statement they have made with this film and they witter on about motivations and the like. It’s a gripping track but not for the reasons they might have hoped - you keep listening to see if it can get any more pretentious. The second track is by the producers and is sadly not a patch on the first one. They speak rarely and when they do it’s to say something of no interest whatsoever.

The disc also contains three deleted scenes, all of which are as dispensible as the rest of the film. One of them, set in a fun-fair is deliciously silly but the other two are unnecessary. A commentary is provided to explain the purpose of the scenes and why they were deleted. An explanation as to why the whole film wasn’t deleted is, regrettably, not forthcoming.

We also get a 12 minute featurette called “Max on the Set” which is a forgettable bit of PR fluff with endless scenes from the film and lots of mutual admiration from the participants. At one point, Kazan mentions “the problem of the male psyche” which nearly resulted in me throwing a brick through my television screen. Three other featurettes are included. The first is another brief making-of thing called “A Serious Message” which features more back-slapping. The second, “Enough is Enough” is more interesting, being a serious examination of domestic abuse with participation from a number of experts in the field. In 12 minutes, it says more about the problem than the film manages in 112. The third is about “Krav Maga Close Combat” and is, again, more engrossing than the film itself.

Finally, there is a music video from Ms Lopez which will no doubt delight her fans but did nothing for me, a selection of trailers - for Enough, MIB2, Spiderman, Trapped and Maid In Manhattan, and brief filmographies for cast and crew.

There are 28 chapter stops and a vast array of subtitles. The commentary track is subtitled in English and Dutch and the extra features, bar the trailers, are subtitled in English.

The film isn’t worth bothering with, but if you really do need to see it then Columbia have produced an excellent DVD presentation.

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