Out of Time Review
The crime thriller genre can be one of fascinating characters, scenarios and action; a real tour de force of emotion and suspense. Some of cinema's greatest films have fitted this mould, yet in recent years Hollywood has butchered the genre into something predictable and mediocre. Sure, there may be the odd exception, but on the whole the amount of excellent crime thrillers to emerge recently has been very limited.
Out of Time certainly fits into that genre, a film that could be described in many ways as bordering on modern noir. Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is the Chief of Police in a small town outside of Miami, Florida, living and working in a place that is normally reserved for those who have retired and spend the rest of their days relaxing in the sun. Although he enjoys his job, his drinking whilst on duty is an obvious flaw in his character, brought about in ways by his recent divorce from wife Alex (Eva Mendes). Whitlock is currently having an affair with a local resident, Ann Merai Harrison (Sanaa Lathan), whose abusive husband Chris (Dean Cain) has driven her to adultery. Recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ann Merai plans on rewarding Whitlock's loyalty to her with a handsome payout from her life insurance. After an apparent arson attack on their house kills Ann Merai and Chris, Alex arrives back on the scene as the detective in charge of the case – and Whitlock soon finds himself the prime suspect…
The film begins as it means to go on: bright and breezy on the surface, but if you delve deeper a darker undercurrent can be found…the titles and opening music suggest Florida sunshine, yet the subsequent unfolding of the plot reveal some rather sinister goings-on and deplorable characters. Director Carl Franklin keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, throwing twists at the audience and allowing the characters room to breathe, even if they do slip into a slightly clichéd mould (flawed but essentially good cop, ex-wife who still has feelings for him, misogynistic ex-football player). His direction of the action set-pieces is assured and allows for some suspense, and the film's length means it doesn't outstay its welcome.
David Collard's screenplay is structured well, although he does include the aforementioned clichés at times. However, he knows how to balance a film out, for example the inclusion of a more lighthearted character, Chae, who assists Whitlock and offers comic relief for the viewer.
This is most definitely a Denzel vehicle, another lead role for the veteran actor, winner of two Oscars and one of the most well respect black actors of his generation. His performance as Matt Whitlock is a good one, if not an outstanding one – definitely not in the league of Training Day's Alonzo Harris, but Washington does indeed keep your eyes glued to his character and the audience does retain a small amount of empathy and sympathy throughout the film for Whitlock. The rest of the cast, including the drop-dead gorgeous Eva Mendes (who does possess some acting talent, thankfully!) and a welcome return to the screen for Dean Cain – last seen in the TV adaptation of Superman, add a lot to the noir-feel of the film and help to concoct a layered atmosphere of deceit and deception.
It's best to go into Out of Time without much knowledge of where the plot goes, or how the action unfolds, as it is apparent that the first viewing of the film will be the strongest; due to the element of surprise. Repeated viewings are still enjoyable, but the best part is undoubtedly the roller coaster, unpredictable path that the film takes. Worth watching.
Distributed on R1 DVD by MGM, this Momentum Pictures R2 disc turns up some four months after its transatlantic counterpart.
The menus are stylish in their fairly simplistic design, with clips from the film and music playing in the background. They are very easy to navigate.
The film is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it's excellent; with vibrant colours and no signs of artefacts of any kind. The visuals are well defined and remain crisp throughout, and there is only a slight hint of edge-enhancement at times…although nothing to distract the viewer.
Only one soundtrack is present – Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, and although the front channels are crisp, with dialogue reproduced fairly clearly (yet there are times when it is a little too quiet), the surrounds are hardly employed at all. I can only think of a very few occasions that they add to the soundstage, and the subwoofer remains dormant for pretty much the entire running time as well. It does its job, but for a recent release it could be much, much better.
An audio commentary by director Carl Franklin is the headline feature of the disc, and it is a good one at that – albeit if Franklin is quiet at times and remains dry throughout. Perhaps if he had been accompanied by someone else in the recording booth then it would have been more engaging to the listener, although there is no denying that there is a wealth of insight into the production contained within the track.
A 12-minute making-of featurette, 'Out of Time: Crime Scene', is included and packs enough information into the sparse running time to satisfy the viewer. Comprising of talking heads, it avoids the usual backslapping that is found in these sorts of featurettes, and is definitely worth watching.
'Profiles' is a fairly unique DVD extra; in so much as it hasn’t been seen that much before…selecting this feature will allow you to choose between five of the main characters from the film – Matt Whitlock, Alex Diaz Whitlock, Ann Merai Harrison, Chris Harrison and Chae – and then proceeds to offer information on each, complete with a short clip playing below, usually featuring the director and members of the cast and crew.
Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain's screen tests are included, and are worth watching to see just how a scene evolves between pre-production and shooting. Lathan's is quite good, but again Cain shines, offering the same raw intensity that he portrays in the film itself. It also shows you just how much fake tan Cain wore in the film…!
Two outtakes, a (moving) photo gallery and the theatrical trailer round off the package.
Some critics may have attacked the film upon its cinematic release, but the upcoming R2 DVD should offer viewers a chance to see for themselves what Out of Time is really like. In this reviewer's opinion, and this comes after watching a fair few crime thrillers, this film does offer up something fairly new and the actors keep this very watchable throughout. Aside from the excellent video quality, the disc is adequate – unremarkable audio, and extras that are good but lacking in real depth or substance. Nevertheless, for a single-disc release this is worth your money.