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With: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain, John Billingsley,
Written by: David Collard
Directed by: Carl Franklin
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, violence and some language
Running Time: 105
Date: 09/07/2003

Out of Time (2003)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Time' to Kill

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Not to be confused with hundreds of other movies with similarly generic titles, the new thriller Out of Time operates on Fritz Lang's theory that everyone is guilty, and even if they're not, they can be made to feel guilty.

Denzel Washington stars as Matt Whitlock, a small town Florida cop on the verge of divorce and having an affair with a married woman, Ann Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) who was once his childhood sweetheart.

Matt's sexy, savvy ex-wife Alex (Eva Mendes) has been promoted above him to detective, and Ann's husband, Chris (Dean Cain) is an abusive louse.

To make matters worse, Ann is diagnosed with incurable cancer. A treatment in Switzerland may save her life, but she's unable to raise the money. So Matt digs out a pile of confiscated drug money and sends her off. In exchange, Ann switches her life insurance policy so that Matt is the beneficiary.

Unfortunately, both Ann and Chris turn up dead in a fire. The money is gone and a neighbor saw Matt lurking nearby just before the fire started. Worse, Alex has been put on the case and uses Matt's office as her temporary headquarters.

And so, having barely slept and wearing last night's loud Hawaiian shirt, Matt must stay half a jump ahead of everyone else, erasing all the evidence pointing to him -- and digging up new evidence as to the real culprit(s) -- all at the same time.

Washington does a terrific job of breaking out into cold sweats and making his heart beat out of his chest, but also trying to cover it up and look cool to those around him.

The director, Carl Franklin, is not unfamiliar with low-down crime stories, having learned in the Roger Corman camp with such quickies as Nowhere to Run and Full Fathom Five before moving up to such bona-fide gems as One False Move and Devil in a Blue Dress.

Out of Time doesn't really qualify as either a quickie or a gem. David Collard's script unfolds neatly but ultimately proves as thin as tissue paper. Thinking back too much pokes any number of holes in the film's delicate fabric. (Pay close attention to Matt's cell phone for proof.)

It's also one of those airless scripts in which every single moment has something to do with the plot, so even moments that look like throwaways are actually establishing crucial information. They know it and we know it.

Fortunately, Franklin ramps the heart-thumping pace up and keeps it there for so long, the film feels like a success. Washington helps a great deal with his all-too vulnerable performance, and a likable John Billingsley (of TV's "Star Trek: Enterprise") portrays Matt's pudgy, white, beer-guzzling best friend Chae with a canteen full of lazy wisecracks, turning the usual black/white buddy formula on its side.

Out of Time will most certainly evaporate in the Indian Summer air not too long after the last popcorn container has been discarded, but it's captivating while it�s with you.

DVD Details: Includes audio commentary track by director Carl Franklin, featurettes, outtakes, screen tests, photo gallery and trailer.

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