Viola Davis channels despair into action in Lifetime's 'Lila & Eve'

Updated 7/16/2015 11:14 AM
  • Lila (Viola Davis), the mother of a murdered son, attends a group-therapy session for her loss in the drama "Lila & Eve."

    Lila (Viola Davis), the mother of a murdered son, attends a group-therapy session for her loss in the drama "Lila & Eve."

Mini-review: 'Lila & Eve'

We already know that a performance by Hollywood empathy queen Viola Davis can improve great movies. In Charles Stone III's "Lila & Eve," she proves a leading Davis character can also elevate a really ridiculously serious, R-rated vigilante drama from Lifetime Films.

"Lila & Eve" works like a collision between conventional "woman vs. unfair world" Lifetime Channel fodder and Abel Ferrara's nasty, 1981 rape-and-revenge thriller "Ms. .45."

Except that the event pushing middle-aged mother Lila (Davis) into vigilante mode is the shooting death of her 18-year-old son Stephon (Aml Ameen) on a city street.

At a Mothers of Young Angels support-group, hurting Lila meets mad momma Eve (Jennifer Lopez, adorned in dumpster-diving apparel). Passionately disillusioned with the status quo, Eve persuades Lila to do what the cops can't: find her son's killers.

Lila and Eve turn out to be better than the cops, speedily shooting their way up the spiral of corruption, knocking off baddies with Charles Bronson-like flair while negotiating the mean streets of Neo-Noirsville.

Lopez delivers a particularly vapid performance as Lila's avenging catalyst, but wait until the end for an explanation for why she's not quite all there in her scenes.

If it's possible for an actress to be an open emotional wound on legs, Davis is.

Her Lila comes filled with so much hurt, despair and sadness that we're willing to give her a pass when she goes Dirty Harriet on the oppressive bad guys right out of Lifetime Channel central casting.

"Lila & Eve" opens at the South Barrington 30. Rated R for language and violence. 94 minutes. ★ ★

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