Nick of Time Movie Review

The experiment was this: Make an action/suspense movie that takes place in real time. That is, 90 minutes of film shows us 90 consecutive minutes in the lives of the hero and villains. Real time has been done before (see also Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, which is not only in real time, but has the appearance of being one continuous shot with no cuts). Real time has never been done quite like this.

In Nick of Time, director John Badham has taken a traditional three-act thriller and jammed it into a sparse 90 minutes. The plot follows accountant Gene Watson (Johnny Depp), now a single father of 7-year old Lynn (Courtney Chase). Arriving at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, Gene and Lynn are picked from the crowd by the enigmatic Mr. Smith (Christopher Walken) for a devious task. Smith gives Gene a gun and a little over an hour to commit a murder or else his daughter will be killed. The catch? The target is the governor of California (Marsha Mason). Watson then has to balance the life of his daughter with the far-ranging conspiracy he finds himself caught up in. And time is running out.

The main problem is that the plot is basically silly, because everywhere Watson goes, he finds another flunkie working for Smith. Even some of those closest to the governor are in on it, any number of whom could pull the trigger, certainly better than some accountant picked from the train station. But Smith's scheme is to frame Watson as a nut case so Smith can walk off scott free, and because Smith follows the flustered Watson around all the time, after 45 minutes you know he'd be better off letting Watson go and shooting the governor himself, just to end the hassle.

Good pacing and the experimental nature of the film tend to overcome the lack of an engaging plot. Of course, real time generally means dead time, and Badham does a good job at keeping things moving so you never get bored. I'm not sure what it says about the film, but keeping track of whether they're really on schedule with the frequent shots of clocks is as much fun as watching the movie itself. The numerous scares indigenous to the thriller genre are also plentiful.

Depp's acting is plain, and Walken hams it up until his character has become the typical complete joke that he's becoming well-known for. The horrid Roma Maffia, as Smith's sidekick, almost manages to bring the film crashing down, but she thankfully doesn't have enough lines to cause too much damage. Worth watching for is Charles Dutton as a crusty, disabled shoe shine man who becomes Watson's only friend and ally.

Given that Nick of Time won't be a smashing success, it'll be some time before the real time experiment is tried again. I'm looking forward to another one, though. But next time, folks, lets try to get some criminals that aren't so completely stupid.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :


Comments

Nick of Time Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 1995

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