Enough, the title of the new Jennifer Lopez domestic thriller, screams from posters and advertising, and it just begs to be derided. Surely it’s what we’ll all be screaming as it grinds to its inevitable resolution of righteous you-go-girl rage. It sounds too much like one of those made-for-Lifetime titles that explain an entire plot, like They Stole Her Daughter or Her Boss Didn’t Give Her Maternity Leave. It must be the worst kind of big-screen cheese, a machine clicking along on wheels of formulaic man-bad-woman-good plotting.
That it is. And on some twisted, obvious level, you’ve just gotta admit that it works.
Directed with panache by veteran genre-crosser Michael Apted, Enough plays more shamelessly to its crowd than a band shouting out the name of the city in which it’s playing. Lopez plays a diner waitress named Slim who meets her apparent Prince Charming in Mitch, a chivalrous, wealthy customer she eventually marries. In an inspired bit of casting, Mitch is played by Billy Campbell—the dreamy, sensitive Rick from TV’s Once & Again—which makes it a perfect image-twist when Mitch turns out to be a violent control freak. He cheats on our sweet J-Lo, smacks her around for calling him on it and threatens to hurt her more and/or take away their daughter Gracie (Tessa Allen) if she tries to leave him. Yet run she does, child in tow and Mitch’s minions in pursuit, before finally deciding that she’s going to learn some Israeli fighting techniques because she’s had … enough.
Bonus points if you recognized the basic premise of “my supposedly perfect husband is actually a raving psycho so I had to run away and change my identity” (now there is a made-for-Lifetime title waiting to happen) from the 1991 Julia Roberts thriller Sleeping With the Enemy, and to a lesser degree, 1999’s Double Jeopardy. No one involved seems to care much about whether Enough’s target audience has seen something similar before, because they know that audience is more than happy to see it again. Mitch spits out instantly hissable lines like, “I bring home the money, so I get to make the rules,” and pursues Slim with a relentlessness that would make Friday the 13th’s Jason feel inadequate. His comeuppance will follow, as the night follows the day, and along the way, our genre buttons will be pushed so hard that we’ll feel the bruises on the way out of the theater.
There’s also no denying that Apted and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan push those buttons fairly well. Campbell gleefully plays the evil-incarnate husband as an icon of bullying chauvinism. The set pieces build tension effectively, and taut editing turns the chases into solid action cinema. But most of all, Enough understands that the cathartic release we’ve long sought in these female empowerment fantasies isn’t as much about shooting the abusive antagonist as it is turning the tables on him and kicking his ass black and blue. As Slim goes into training with her sensei in the hand-to-hand art of Krav Maga, we’re being primed for a great showdown. When she sets up Mitch’s beachfront palace for his downfall, the whooping is already underway. And when Slim delivers her first pimp-slap, we’ve been whipped into a foaming frenzy.
If only it didn’t take so long for Enough to get the lather going. The mid-section of the film turns into an American travelogue as Slim and Gracie bounce from L.A. to Seattle to San Francisco to Northern Michigan while attempting to elude Mitch. While all the city-hopping certainly establishes the antagonist’s persistence, it serves primarily as a nice demo reel for the film’s location manager, and a repetitive slog for the rest of us. We want to see Slim make Mitch her bitch, and there’s no excuse for wasting two hours of our time getting there.
A film like Enough should inspire something between a shrug of indifference and fuming outrage over its cynical embrace of vigilante justice. But when the lights come up and you realize a film has done its job, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen. It’s pure visceral melodrama, with the kind of simple satisfaction that doesn’t come along often … enough.