|Out of Time|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 06 January 2004|
“Out of Time” follows the pattern of a classic film noir, in which a flawed hero winds up in one hell of a fix because of money and a dame. In this instance, he’s played by Denzel Washington, which means we’re predisposed to root for him, and the mess he’s in is impressively problematic, even if we can see much of what’s coming well before he does.
Washington’s character, Matt Whitlock, is chief of police in a small coastal Florida town, where the biggest thing that’s happened lately is a drug bust that’s landed several hundred thousand dollars in the police station safe until such time as it’s needed as evidence in the upcoming trial. Matt is reluctant to sign divorce papers on his estranged wife, big-city homicide detective Alex (Eva Mendes), even though he’s having a steamy affair with old high-school sweetheart Anne-Marie Harris (Sanaa Lathan), whose ex-football player husband Chris (Dean Cain) hates Matt with a searing passion. Then Matt learns that Anne-Marie has terminal cancer. She cannot afford the only treatment that might save her – but there’s all that cash right in safekeeping, right at Matt’s fingertips …
Pretty much any fan of the genre can see the first few steps of where all this is going, even if Matt, bless him, is pretty blind. Once the trap has been sprung, though, writer Dave Collard has a lot of fun with Matt’s position as top cop at home in his environment, which allows for a lot of playing with the possibilities. The movie toys with our heads a bit, encouraging us to cheer on an officer of the law totally abusing his office, but the set-ups are clever and director Carl Franklin maintains a tone that is on the knife edge between serious thriller and slapstick comedy – while the action doesn’t wink at the viewer, there are more doors opening and closing here with fortuitous timing than in the average stage farce.
Although Lathan and Mendes both interpret their roles well, and are suitably sexy, “Out of Time” suffers from lack of chemistry between Washington and either one of them, which creates an emotional disadvantage. On the other hand, Washington achieves an appealing rapport with John Billingsley, who plays Matt’s cheerfully unethical coroner pal with good timing and much offhand panache. Cain plays his bullying jerk of a baddie with zest and just the right hint of humanizing desperation.
The DVD transfer does justice to what director Franklin refers to in the commentary as the “ice cream sherbet” colors of Florida, reproducing the sunlit pastel hues and conveying a sense of humidity. The discrete sound is good, too, with a notably nice aural segue from a quiet scene into the roar of fire engines and flames, with the dispatch radio located solidly in the right main. Chapter 5 has composer Graeme Revell’s score cleverly suggesting Matt’s rattled state of mind with maracas and drums, and Chapter 9 has strong impact in a sequence full of gunshots and broken glass.
Franklin’s commentary is full of tidbits about the location and praise for the intelligence and choices made by his actors. Prurient-minded viewers may be especially interested in details of what had to be trimmed to achieve the PG-13 rating. Other extras include an average making-of featurette, nice little character profiles by Franklin and Collard, a pair of reasonably amusing outtakes and screen tests on Lathan and Cain.
“Out of Time” is reminiscent of “Body Heat,” with the considerable advantage of not taking itself nearly so seriously. If you’re looking for grit, you won’t find it here, but if you want a fun maze to run with guns, babes, money and motives, “Out of Time” provides it.