While watching the latest estrogen thriller “Enough,” I thought about a girl I knew in high school. She was dating an abusive guy who had no problem reminding her that she belonged to him. When she tried to break up with him, he attempted to run over her. Restraining orders were useless. This guy was truly frightening.

I bring this up so you know that I know the difference between the reality of the situation and what “Enough” tries to pawn off as escapist entertainment. Jennifer Lopez plays a wife and mother who learns five years into her marriage that her husband is an abusive control freak, and will do anything to keep her from leaving him.

When the law fails to help, Slim (Lopez) snatches daughter Gracie (Tessa Allen) and hits the road. When her husband Mitch (Billy Campbell) catches up with them, Slim concludes that the only person she can turn to for help is herself, and learns enough self-defense to kick Mitch’s butt.

Too bad Slim couldn’t punch up the “Dragnet” screenplay (dumb-da-dumb-dumb) by Nicholas Kazan that exposes larger lapses in logic than a Florida primary, and plot holes so big Palestine could occupy them. The characters are tired and flat, and say and do the ordinary. They’re not real people but types, manufactured by a writer who turns pedestrian material into road kill.

While women might rally behind this rehash of “Sleeping with the Enemy,” (and the much better “The Burning Bed” with Farrah Fawcett), it’s not because “Enough” is a good film. It’s not even good trashy fun. It gives the target audience what they want, a women’s revenge fantasy, but it comes with a price.

For any of this to work, the characters have to do dumb things in order for the plot to advance. When Slim finally gets tired of being Mitch’s punching bag, does she wait until he’s gone to slip away? Nope. She sneaks out in the middle of the night while Mitch is asleep. It’s an apparent attempt to fabricate suspense. The decision makes no sense.

Neither does much of the plot, which relies heavily on convenience and abstract time frames to accommodate the action. When Slim determines her only recourse is to fight back, we’re asked to believe her transformation into G.I. Jane (with Kung-Fu grip) occurs in a matter of weeks. I realize “Enough” is only a movie, but does it have to be an insulting movie?

Mitch appears to display honest concern over the safety of Gracie, yet has no problem authorizing corrupt cop Robbie (Noah Wyle, trying hard to act menacing) to track down his wife and daughter, who then attempts to run them off the road and kill them. If you can’t trust a corrupt cop to get the job done right, who can you trust?

Not director Michael Apted, who approaches “Enough” as a glorified television movie, allowing the talented cast to wallow in Kazan’s toxic dump of bad dialogue, which makes an episode of “Knot’s Landing” sound like Shakespeare.

Kazan spends way too much time climbing up the ladder before jumping off the high dive. The audience knows where “Enough” is headed, so adding layers to the prologue is a waste of our time.

It takes way too long for Slim to learn that her price in shining armor is really the dark knight, who believes wealth and power give him the freedom to cheat, and then bat Slim around the room when she complains. At first Billy Campbell seems like inspired casting as the abusive Mitch. His handsome, boyish looks and sweet demeanor make him an unlikely candidate to play the bad guy.

Unfortunately, the character of Mitch is a caricature. Campbell is never allowed by the director to develop Mitch into anything more than a Central Casting Norman Bates. Mitch’s outbursts come out of nowhere, and seem totally fabricated, obviously excuses to whip more mileage out of a dead horse.

While there’s plenty of conviction in Jennifer Lopez’s Slim, it’s difficult to care about someone who constantly makes bad choices. By the time Slim finally accepts responsibility for her life, we’re busy looking at out watches, wondering how much longer we have to wait for the payoff. Even then, the final confrontation between Slim and Mitch is so calculated and manipulative that it comes as a letdown.

Apted has a reputation for creating films with strong female characters (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas in the Mist”), but he embarrasses himself with “Enough.” Maybe he thought the material was so conventional it would direct itself. There’s very little to indicate that Apted was involved as anything more than a visual stylist. Indeed, “Enough” is slick and glossy, but it fails the litmus test of a good thriller.


Lopez sleeps with the enemy in familiar thriller


Jennifer Lopez, Billy Campbell, Tessa Allen, Juliette Lewis, Dan Futterman, Noah Wyle, Fred Ward. Directed by Michael Apted. Rated PG-13. 115 Minutes.


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