Directed by: Carl Franklin
Starring: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain, John Billingsley
Out of Time attempts to be an old-style film noir -- and it sometimes succeeds in at least creating that illusion. The problem is, it's just that: an illusion.
There's very little within this film's often stylish confines that isn't cobbled from other sources, most notably John Farrow's The Big Clock (for purposes of plot) and Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat (for plot and mood). And if you go back a bit further, you'll find that there's a lingering specter called Laura involved in both Out of Time and Body Heat.
The new film is done slickly enough, and it's hard to fault any of the performances; that said, Out of Time is never its own movie, and as a result, it's never very involving or convincing. Also, on close examination, it has about as much logic as Iraq apparently has weapons of mass destruction. However, logic may not be an essential element in this type of film. (Prizes are still being offered, I believe, to anyone who can actually explain the plot of Howard Hawks' version of the Raymond Chandler novel The Big Sleep. But at least The Big Sleep was its own film and boasted characters whose every move wasn't dictated by the needs of its plot.)
Few emotions expressed in Out of Time makes a lick of sense, but they exist in the screenplay by David Collard (TV's The Family Guy) simply because they suit the needs of the convoluted story line. (There's a moment in an episode of the old BBC radio program The Goon Show where Peter Sellers says, "Ah, Ned, we meet again -- thanks to clever scripting." That line kept occurring to me at nearly every -- sadly predictable -- twist and turn of Out of Time's plot.)
Denzel Washington plays Matt Whitlock, the chief of police (over four cops) in the sleepy little town of Banyan Key -- a place that exists in between Key West and some ephemeral area of the screenwriter's mind and Miami. Matt is far from an exemplary officer of the law -- and pretty far from an exemplary anything. He's being divorced by his homicide-investigator wife (Eva Mendes) and is cavorting about with his otherwise-married (to a wife-beater, so that's OK) high-school sweetheart (Sanaa Lathan). For purposes of the plot, Matt's also sitting on $485,000 in drug money tied to a case that won't be tried for years, which becomes very convenient when his squeeze tells him she's dying of cancer unless she can get to Switzerland for a new and pricey treatment. Even if you've missed the trailer, I'm sure you know where this is going.
To complicate matters, the lady in question has signed over a million-dollar life-insurance policy to him -- only for her to be unceremoniously murdered (along with her abusive spouse). Things look bad for Matt, but they'll contrive to look worse before we get to the end of the movie. Much like Ray Milland in The Big Clock, Matt tries to bury, squelch or otherwise obfuscate the evidence piling up against him. Unlike Milland, however, there's little to suggest that Matt is up to this task, and his sudden resourcefulness, while entertaining, is not especially believable. It's giving away very little on my part to note that, of course, Matt has been set up. The film reveals that early on, and is built not on that possible surprise, but on Matt's frantic efforts to save himself.
Some of Out of Time is fun. Some of it is even head-slapping, far-fetched fun. But some of it is more tedious than suspenseful or fun. Washington is his usual excellent self, though he invests more in the character than is really there -- and he allows John Billingsley as his classless, comical best friend to steal every scene he shares with Washington. In fact, Billinglsley is sufficiently outrageous to almost redeem the less-successful aspects of the film.
Out of Time is moderately enjoyable, yes -- but it's yet another vehicle that's not really worth Washington's time or talent.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke