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Dustin Putman

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Out Of Time (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain, John Billingsley, Alex Carter, Robert Baker
2003 – 114 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, violence, and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 4, 2003.

Directed by Carl Franklin (2002's "High Crimes"), "Out of Time" is a film noir in the classic sense, the genre's every convention covered by the time the end credits have rolled. A sultry, swampy backwater setting. Check. A sexy good-girl-turned-femme-fatale. Check. A bag of cash. Check. A scheming double cross. Check. There are more characteristics where these came from, but you get the picture. Screenwriter David Collard may know all the usual ingredients of a noir thriller, but the plot he has cooked up is overloaded with half-baked cliches and easily telegraphed twists and turns.

Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington) works as Chief of Police in the small, bayside Florida town of Banyan Key, where nothing much happens and he kind of likes it that way. Still going through divorce procedures with his ex, homicide detective Alex Diaz-Whitlock (Eva Mendes), Matt has begun a secret affair with Anne Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) behind the back of her abusive husband, Chris (Dean Cain). When Anne discovers she is dying with cancer and her only hope is an expensive treatment in Switzerland, Matt devolves a plan to take $485,000 worth of drug money from his job to help her escape Chris and have the procedure done. Before Ann can leave, however, her house is burned down and two charred bodies are found inside. With the investigation—headed by Alex—kicking into high drive and Matt threatened at becoming the top suspect, Matt sets out to do everything in his power to clear his name and return the drug money before it is too late.

As nothing more than an involving, albeit pithy, little thriller, "Out of Time" is efficiently crafted, ratcheting up a fair amount of suspense once things get going in the second hour. These scenes, each set up similarly as Matt attempts to tie up one loose end after the next as his wife and co-workers come dangerously close to exposing his secrets, are tautly edited (by Carole Kravetz) highlights. What they lead up to, however, is alarmingly very little, and the film's final predictable development is akin to closing a fist on thin air. The movie does not always treat its characters with the respect and intelligence they deserve, making way for a storyline that is as shallow as it is seemingly deceptive.

Denzel Washington (2002's "John Q") could play the role of Matt Whitlock, a suave lieutenant who finds his neck suddenly on the line, in his sleep. Washington rarely delivers a disappointing performance, and this one is no exception, as he must think fast in covering his tracks and piecing the puzzle together while keeping his cool. This may not be one of his most challenging projects, but Washington carries the proceedings off with aplomb. Lending female support, Eva Mendes (2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious") and Sanaa Lathan (1999's "The Best Man") are saddled with thankless parts, Mendes as Matt's long-suffering but strong-willed wife who begins to suspect him of involvement in the case, and Lathan as the sympathetic temptress. Lathan invigorates her scenes with an accuracy of human nature, some decidedly dark, but the film betrays her depth in a by-the-numbers shoot-out climax.

Despite attractive technical credits, including noteworthy cinematography by Theo van de Sande (2000's "Little Nicky") that paints the Miami backdrops with precision and snazzy sheen, "Out of Time" is an underwhelming exercise in standard crime thriller exhibitionism. Its most buoyantly original moment, set in a hotel room, uses an unlikely dialogue exchange from a scene in 2001's "Legally Blonde" to speak the thoughts of Matt and reinforce what has occurred thus far. Otherwise, so dependent on its plotting that it eventually disregards the characters and forgets to remind the viewer why they should even care, the film never digs beyond its skin-deep roots. There are occasional tense moments to be had, and director Carl Franklin knows crafty showmanship, but they are at the service of a hopeless story that goes nowhere really fast.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman