Out Of Time Movie Review

Until its unfortunate surrender to a formulaic finish, "Out of Time" is one taut, twisty and creatively startling noir thriller about a small-town Florida sheriff whose affair with a married woman begets one ethical misstep that links him to a double homicide -- with all the evidence pointing to him as the prime suspect.

Set in a sleepy but sultry burg in the Keys, where a whiff of duplicity hangs in the air like the humidity, the film stars Denzel Washington as Matt Whitlock, a casually conscientious cop fated to spend the whole movie barely half a step ahead of the his own investigators, trying simultaneously to obscure the facts and clear his name.

Seeking solace from a recent split with his fiery FBI-agent wife (Eva Mendes), Whitlock begins the story immersed in a steamy affair with Ann (the stunning Sanaa Lathan), a vulnerably sexy old flame now married to an abusive failed NFL player (Dean Cain), with whom the sheriff shares a long-running animosity.

Atmospherically gifted director Carl Franklin (who worked with Washington on the superb, underappreciated "Devil in a Blue Dress") spends the film's first act engrossing us in the depths and dangers of this heated triangle, which has its own emotional twists that lead Whitlock to a bad choice: After learning Ann has terminal cancer and has made him the beneficiary of a million-dollar insurance policy, the sheriff gives her $480,000 in drug-trade booty from his department's evidence safe so she can get away from her husband and seek the best medical treatment.

Then the rug is pulled out from under him. How, I will not spoil for you. But by the next morning, there has been an arson fire in which two bodies are found -- and all the whole set-up is designed to point to Whitlock, his adultry and the missing money. Detectives are soon closing in, ironically led by the sheriffs' soon-to-be ex-wife (who knows him well enough to recognize something is amiss), and Whitlock is barely hanging on to his wits as he alters evidence right under FBI agents' noses and races to beat them to witnesses. Yet his every deception is another potential shovel-full of dirt dug for his own grave.

With the second and third acts taking place over the course of just one day, the film's finely tuned, frenzied tension is enough to keep plot-hole examinations fleeting (they'll tiptoe back into your mind after the credits roll), as Washington draws the audience into his character's upside-down world with a heart-pounding performance of controlled panic.

Written by script rookie Dave Collard and tightly directed by Franklin (at least until he has to wrap things up), "Out of Time" moves fast and thinks sharp, but does suffer from a couple narrative hiccups. One significant reveal is dropped into the plot too early and feels like a cheap B-movie maneuver -- but such problems are nothing a smart, savvy cast can't smooth over, and the acting here is spicy and terrific.

At his most charismatic and natural, Washington makes you feel every bead of sweat and every rapid beat of heart. Despite being young, full-lipped and gorgeous, Mendes (who also played Washington's wife in "Training Day") is credible enough as an astute FBI agent to completely forgo the tough-girl act and sells her character on disarming femininity and cunning.

Lathan ("Brown Sugar," "Love and Basketball") is seductive and alluring, but definitely not the femme fatale one would expect a noir hero to fall for. Cain ("Lois and Clark") sinks his teeth into the insinuated menace of her bulldog husband, and as the sheriff's only ally, a puckishly unscrupulous medical examiner, John Billingsly ("Star Trek: Enterprise") offers uncommonly understated comic relief.

Only in the last 10 minutes does Franklin ease up on the spellbinding pressure, and when he does, the movie's grip goes limp with improbable Hollywood convention. As its tension subsides, you may find yourself thinking back to pivotal events that don't hold up to closer scrutiny. But while Franklin and Washington have you swept up in Whitlock's nightmare, "Out of Time" is a satisfying, nail-biting good time at the movies.


Out Of Time Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, October 3, 2003


More Denzel Washington

Toronto Film Festival Unveils Line-Up

David Cronenberg's new film Maps to the Stars which stunned critics at Cannes and features Julianne Moore and Robert Pattinson will screen alongside another Cannes...

A Week In Movies: The Fault In Our Stars Hits London, Transformers Bows In Hong Kong, New Trailers For Washington, Daniels, Carrey And More

Fans lined the streets outside London's May Fair Hotel to glimpse the cast of the teen hit The Fault in Our Stars as they attended...

'The Equalizer': Denzel Washington Avenges Crime In Brutal New Thriller

The trailer has just been released for the upcoming revenge thriller, The Equalizer, which stars Denzel Washington alongside Chloe Grace Moretz. Set for release in...

The Equalizer Trailer

Robert McCall has a modest job at a hardware store in Boston where he longs for a peaceful life on his own to live out...


Could Denzel Washington Be Back in the Oscars Hunt With 'The Equalizer'?

We love seeing Denzel Washington getting his bad ass action star routine on and it looks like The Equalizer is going to give us just...

A Week In Movies: Awards Season Gathers Pace, Superhero Movie Rumours Abound, Expendables 3 Drops A Teaser

Things always go quiet in the film industry over the holidays as everyone takes one last break before the full onslaught of awards season campaigning....

Mark Wahlberg Has The Thirst For Knowledge After Gaining Diploma

For Marky Mark Wahlberg, growing up wasn’t exactly the drama-school adventure a lot of today’s Oscar hopefuls were lucky enough to enjoy. No, he dropped...

2 Guns Movie Review

What looks like a rather standard buddy action comedy is elevated by a smarter-than-normal script, skilful direction and surprisingly offhanded chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg....