May 18, 2001

Jennifer Lopez stars as a tough cop in "Angel Eyes"

"Angel Eyes" is a story about a seemingly unlikely couple who cross paths under life-threatening circumstances as though they are destined not only to meet but to save each other's lives. Not once, but twice.

Officer Sharon Pogue (Jennifer Lopez) is an excellent cop. "She's tough and she doesn't compromise," explains director Luis Mandoki, "She will do whatever it takes to do the right thing, regardless of personal cost to herself." Assigned to a high-crime district in the South Side of Chicago, her job puts her into danger on a daily basis - arresting drug dealers, confronting armed criminals, breaking up fights. The intense anger that often shows through her professional exterior in the face of such volatile situations leads her partner and friend Robby (Terrence Howard) to suspect she was well-acquainted with violence long before she ever put on a uniform. But it's not something she chooses to talk about.

Sharon's dedication to her job does little to compensate for the fact that she has no personal life. She has been estranged from her family for many years. Disconnected from them and from life in general, Sharon fills her days with work and her nights with her private regrets.

"She once took a position and is now continuing to pay the price for it," explains screenwriter Gerald DiPego. "Exposed to violence early in her life, she is now covering her hurt with anger. Nevertheless, she longs for the family that has shut her out."

Somewhere in the same neighborhood a man who goes by the name of Catch is living his own half-life. A strange, haunted soul who sleeps in an empty apartment, he spends his days dispensing little gifts of goodwill to anyone in need. If it starts to rain and he notices a car window open, Catch will roll it up; if a stranger passes by, Catch will offer a smile. Twice a week he delivers groceries to a disabled woman named Elanora Davis (Shirley Knight). He and Elanora exchange the same light banter every time he stops by but she has learned not to ask him the kinds of questions he doesn't want to answer.

To most people who encounter him, Catch is an odd but harmless figure. To some, he appears dangerous, suspicious_they wonder what he is up to. But Catch is indifferent to the reactions he elicits. He moves through the landscape in a kind of existential daze, performing his services automatically as though this is the only thing he was meant to do. Yet he seems to derive no real pleasure from it.

"He's actually stumbled onto something," says DiPego. "On the one hand, certainly he's in denial, trying to escape his pain, but his traumatic experience also triggered in him an appreciation for the preciousness of life and how important it is that we love each other, even strangers on the street. Out of that awakening comes these little acts of kindness."

Like Sharon, Catch has no personal life.

"He's just applying a Band-Aid," says Mandoki of Catch's behavior. "He's keeping a lid on his demons as Sharon does with hers. It's only when they fall in love and then risk losing that love that they are forced to examine who they really are, present and past."

"They've just come together and formed a relationship but it's still tentative," says James Caviezel, who portrays Catch. "They're still not willing to give up to each other the stuff they're scared to reveal."

The story is about "the conflict between isolation and connection," says DiPego. "We become isolated because we're afraid of opening up to each other, especially these days. On the other hand, there's a longing inside of us to connect. I think our salvation lies in keeping connected."

When Sharon learns that her parents, Josephine (Sonia Braga) and Carl (Victor Argo) are planning a big party to celebrate the renewal of their wedding vows and she has not been invited, she reaches a crisis. At the same time, Sharon's investigations into her new lover's background bring up issues for him that he would do anything to avoid - even if it means never seeing her again.

After years of dealing with their pain in the only way they knew how, Sharon and Catch must make some difficult decisions and risk losing each other if they are going to move forward and reclaim their lives.

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