Out Of Time Review
As a post-Christmas time-waster, Out Of Time fits the bill reasonably enough. It's a slickly made thriller, it's suspenseful and surprisingly funny in places and it looks fantastic, even when Eva Mendes isn't onscreen. Spectacular Florida sunsets always go down well with this reviewer, especially in the middle of a wet British winter. I might have enjoyed the film even more if I wasn't constantly being reminded that I'd seen it all before and done better. It's business as usual for producer Neal H Moritz, who's built a lucrative career making teen exploitation pictures shamelessly recycled from other films, including I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions, The Fast And The Furious and XXX. Now he's moved up to an adult genre, film noir, but his recipe for success hasn't changed - take a proven formula, remove anything that might confuse or upset the dumbest members of the audience and tone it down so the kids can get in. This may be the first modern day film noir to be rated 12A.
Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is chief of police for the small Florida fishing town of Banyan Key. It's a sleepy town that's just seen a rare bit of excitement when Whitlock seized a million dollars of coke money, which he's now holding for the Drug Enforcement Agency in his evidence locker. Chae (John Billingsley), his amiable slob of a medical examiner, jokes that they should steal it but Whitlock is too honest and besides, he's preoccupied with Ann Merai Harrison (Sanaa Lathan), his high school sweetheart, now the battered wife of former football star Chris Harrison (Dean Cain). Recently separated from his own wife, Whitlock has started an affair with Ann and he's hoping she'll leave her husband for him. Instead he's shocked when she reveals she has terminal cancer. The only thing that can save her is experimental treatment which isn't cheap and the only cash Whitlock can get his hands on is the drug money sitting in his office safe.
Of course, in a film like this, things are never as they seem and the plot goes on to twist and turn in ways I won't spoil, although if you really want to know, the trailer gives away just about everything. Unfortunately Out Of Time twists and turns in ways that are a bit too reminiscent of other films, in particular Roger Donaldson's 1987 thriller No Way Out, in which Kevin Costner was trapped in a nightmarish situation very similar to the one Washington finds himself in here. No Way Out was itself a remake of a 1948 film called The Big Clock but it was cleverly updated and stands as a textbook example of how to build and maintain suspense. Out of Time can't measure up. It uses the same plot devices but uses them clumsily and depends on too many contrivances, starting with the DEA entrusting a million dollars of vital evidence to a small town police chief when they could have picked it up straight away. If you find that hard to swallow, the detective brought in from Miami when things go pear-shaped is Whitlock's ex-wife (Eva Mendes).
On the positive side, director Carl Franklin (One False Move) has made the best film that could possibly have been made from this material. He structures the film well, keeps the pace fast and puts together a fine action scene in a Miami hotel. The picture is generally well cast, with Dean Cain making a convincingly nasty thug, John Billingsley riotously funny as Washington's sidekick and Eva Mendes and Sanaa Lathan providing more than just glamour. Washington is always a charismatic presence, even if you idly wonder at times how the fifty-ish actor could have gone to school with the thirty-ish Lathan. A lot of talented people contributed to Out Of Time and it's a shame that it's no more than a pleasant diversion. The problems are with the concept, not the execution. With its sex and violence consisting of fully clothed groping and a couple of bloodless killings, Out Of Time is just too clean-cut to be a film noir. Whitlock is too well-intentioned, his friends too loyal and the villains too one-dimensionally dastardly. A film like this should end, if not unhappily then at least on a bittersweet note, not as neatly as a TV cop show.