Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, ...
Credit: Gigli: Phil Caruso

Revolution Studios and Sony Pictures first changed the title to ”Tough Love,” and then back to the original ”Gigli” (pronounced ”Jeely,” not ”Giggly”). But maybe they should just call the film ”When Benny Met Jenny,” since this is where the now-engaged Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez first worked together.

Will moviegoers embrace the duo as fervently as they’ve been embracing each other? Martin Brest is banking on it. After making his name with ”Beverly Hills Cop” and tarnishing it with ”Meet Joe Black,” the filmmaker probably has even more riding on the reception than his stars do. The script (his first since 1979’s geriatric caper comedy ”Going in Style”) finds Affleck playing a bottom-rung hitman named Larry Gigli — a faltering tough guy who kidnaps a prosecutor’s mentally impaired brother (newcomer Justin Bartha). When Gigli begins to feel sorry for his abductee, his bosses send in a lesbian contract killer (Lopez) to supervise, but both gunslingers wind up shielding their charge.

And then? The actors still aren’t sure how the story will play out in the final cut. ”Marty,” says Bartha, ”has a certain process that he goes through…. He goes and goes until he sees something that he likes.” Brest reportedly filmed an ending in which Affleck’s character dies. When test audiences evidently reacted negatively to it, the cast went back for reshoots just after Christmas — triggering a rash of bad press. Says Lopez, who initially passed on her role but stepped back in after her replacement, Halle Berry, left to make ”Die Another Day” and ”X2,” ”It was about tweaking the end so it matched the rest of the movie, which is very funny and amusing.” And what of a report that this new finale also fizzled in testing, and Brest may not use it? ”You know more than I do!” says Lopez. ”You do all you can when you’re shooting. Then you have to kind of just walk away…[and] put your trust and your life in the director’s hands.”

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  • 124 minutes