How do you solve a murder when all the evidence points to you?
This movie has one heck of a boring title. I mean, come on, how much more non-descript can you get than Out of Time? Save for the presence of Denzel Washington in the trailers (and to some extent the exquisite Eva Mendes), I would have paid as much attention to this flick as I do to a Lifetime movie marathon. The noir niche it occupies leads to the inevitable genre presuppositions of gray-area protagonists, heavy atmosphere, and backbreaking plot twists. Does Carl Franklin's sticky, sun-drenched tale of betrayal and murder deliver the goods? You be the judge. Well, I guess that's my job, so, yes, in my opinion it does.
Facts of the Case
Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington) thinks he's pretty great. He's the big-shot sheriff in a nebbish of a Florida town, drives a pretty cool SUV police vehicle that miraculously was approved by the town voters, and is sleeping with a beautiful flame from his past, Ann Merai (Sanaa Lathan.) No worries? Well, not so much. His bed-partner is married to the belligerent Chris Harrison (Dean Cain), an ex-football player with an attitude and wanton disregard for law enforcement boning his wife.
Whitlock's world gets rocked however when he discovers Ann has terminal cancer, and is given the prognosis of only several months to live. Distraught, and willing to do anything for his illicit lover, Whitlock opts to fund some experimental and highly secretive treatment though a big cache of drug money from a recent bust.
Yet just as he's about to land the deal, Chris and Ann Merai's house goes up in flames, their charred bodies amidst the rubble, and all evidence points to Whitlock.
What follows is Whitlock's frantic dash to avoid the watchful gaze of his bodacious ex-wife and investigating detective of the case, Alex (Eva Mendes) and unravel the increasingly complex mystery.
What a great little surprise Out of Time was for me. As I mentioned, being fairly underwhelmed by the advertising and publicity, what attracted me to the flick was mainly Denzel Washington, someone who rarely disappoints. (As an aside, a friend of mine loathes Denzel, decrying his acting ability and saying he's the same in all his movies; that may be close to the truth, but I'd more often take a Denzel movie, no matter what acting chops he displays, than nine-tenths of the simmering yak discharge that's currently on-screen.)
Anywho, if you love the Denzel Washington brand of intensity and on-screen charisma, this movie's got the plot, writing, and acting to keep up with him. If you hate him, well, you'll probably go bowling that night instead.
As a slice of noir, Out of Time really works well. It's not overly long, and each scene seems like it belongs. When the suspense kicks in—and there are some sequences where director Carl Franklin really jacks up the tension—it is highly effective. There are some moments in the film where the viewer will ask: "How in the $%*& will he get out of this one?!"
As the story chugs forward, like with any decent noir entry, revelations are revealed and twists occur. All of this is well done, yet the ending left something to be desired.
This is obviously Washington's movie, and he's in pretty much every scene. He does get good support from Mendes and Cain, and John Billingsley turns in a great little comic relief/goofy sidekick performance. Yet, what steals the show for me was the location. The sweaty, sticky Florida locale really works for me as backdrop to these types of movies (see Wild Things.)
Bonus features include a passable behind-the-scenes featurette where everyone interviewed says the word "sexy," pretty much every other sentence. The best part of the documentary is by far Eva Mendes talking about the humidity of location: "You want to take your clothes off. You want to be as bare as can be." Saints preserve us!
Some character profiles with a nifty presentation, two outtakes, and a batch of screen tests (I like these, as it shows that some actors have to really work to get their parts), round out the bonuses. Franklin offers an interesting play-by-play on the commentary track. The transfer is sharp, and the sound is an adequate 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. No complaints here.
Actually, all-in-all, no big complaints for the entire set. Good little movie, and nice little presentation.
Missed this gem in the theatre? For a solid dose of escapism and whodunit hooplah, Out of Time brings home the bacon.
Case dismissed. Carl Franklin and all parties, go about your merry business. Ms. Eva Mendes, however, it is the opinion of this court to have you sequestered and tell us more about your thoughts on clothing and its relation to hot weather…
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• Commentary track (director)
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