Review

Out of Time Review

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Oct 03, 2003 | 10:00am EDT

Out of Time certainly isn't going to win any screenplay awards with its formulaic premise. Matt Lee Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is the highly respected police chief of a small Florida key near Miami in one of those lazy seaside towns just itching for something exciting to happen. For Matt excitement comes in the form of the sexy Ann Merai (Sanaa Lathan) his former high school sweetheart who is now stuck in an abusive marriage. Even though the affair they start is torrid Matt doesn't really love Ann Merai; he's still hung up on his estranged wife Alex (Eva Mendes) a Miami-Dade detective. But when Matt finds out Ann Merai is dying of cancer he stupidly decides to give her $80K confiscated in a drug bust so she can get treatment at a Swiss clinic. I did say stupid right? Almost as soon as the money leaves Matt's possession he finds himself neck-deep in hot water as Ann turns up burned to a crisp in an arson fire all the money gone and all the evidence pointing to our friendly police chief as the prime suspect. Egad! He's been framed! He's been taken! What ever will he do? True it sounds very much like every other film noir you've ever seen with chain-smoking gumshoes and femmes fatales. Luckily the tactics Matt uses to keep one step ahead of the investigators one of which is his beloved Alex keep the story somewhat interesting.

OK none of this would have even been remotely appealing if Out of Time didn't star Oscar winner Washington. The talented actor sells it to audiences hook line and sinker. Matt is the kind of guy ripe for the taking--he still pines for his wife who for reasons he doesn't understand leaves him but lets his libido do the talking when his hot ex shows up. Typical guy stuff. The things that help Matt move beyond this patterned male behavior however are his street smarts which Washington can play with his eyes closed. Once Matt finds himself in a prickly predicament he jumps into action and so does the movie. As the women Lathan (Brown Sugar) and Mendes (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) are capable actresses but Time doesn't do them especially Mendes any justice. She knows what it's like being Washington's girl having done so much more effectively in Training Day. Here there's not a lot for her to do besides trying to act like a tough authority figure. The only real standout next to Washington is John Billingsley (High Crimes) as the quirky medical examiner Chae who becomes Matt's only true ally. With Albert Einstein's hair and Homer Simpson's personal hygiene habits Billingsley infuses the film with a little comic relief.

Credit also goes to director Carl Franklin (One False Move for Out of Time's finer moments. Once the film kicks into high gear Franklin keeps the pace racing as Matt runs around on borrowed time searching for clues. The simple scene where Matt tries to keep Alex and the others from finding his cell phone number on Ann's telephone records is surprisingly edge-of-your-seat effective. Franklin also uses Florida's steamy lush surroundings to his advantage painting a sultry backdrop where the characters quite literally sweat it out. There is definitely something about Florida that adds a sexual quality to a film noir. Take for example one of the genre's classics the 1981 Body Heat which was filmed in South Florida. Yep sweat works. But unlike the tautly erotic Body Heat Out of Time ultimately isn't able to rise above the mediocre script despite the efforts put out by its star director and its fatale locale.

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