Out of Time

Starring Denzel Washington and Eva Medes. Directed by Carl Franklin.
Running Time: 114 mins
Rated: MA 15+

Matt Lee Whitlock (Washington) is a popular and honest chief of police in the small town of Banyan Key in the Florida Keys. He is the middle of divorce proceedings from his police detective wife Alex (Mendes), but has to work with her everyday as she returns to town to solve a murder case. Part of the evidence for the murder investigation, which Whitlock has to keep an eye on, is a large amount of cash.

Whitlock is having an affair with Ann Merai (Sanaa Lathan). He wants Ann to leave her abusive husband. When Merai's doctor thinks Whitlock is her husband, he reveals that she has cancer and needs life-saving treatment in Switzerland. She can't afford it. Whitlock hands over the money from the evidence room. That night Ann's house is blown up, she and her husband are presumed dead and the finger of suspicion, for theft and murder, falls upon him. Alex Whitlock has work out the truth - and so does Matt.

Out of Time is in the tradition of film noir, but has neither the savvy nor the style to pull it off. In fact for a film costing US$50 million, and with such a big-name star like Washington, it looks surprisingly amateurish. For example there are several lighting and action discontinuities which distract our attention. With such a generous budget, this should not occur.

But there are bigger problems in other departments too. The film is set in the Florida Keys in 2002 but we never hear a word in Spanish, or see a sign written in that language. The southern feel of the film is evoked by an never-ending salsa music score from Graeme Revell, shots of ceiling fans, and lots of perspiration worthy of Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat", which is set in a similar location with a similar story to boot.

Furthermore, when one of the murder suspects falls out of the window from a hotel's seventh floor, there is no blood at the place of the impact. He is an unusual fellow. And even though the hotel guests have just witnessed a suicide or a murder they don't seem all that concerned. They are an unusual crowd.

Although there are plenty of interesting ideas in Out of Time, particularly what would happen if a local Police Chief and the District Coroner conspired to conceal a crime, they are not properly realised in this film because on the way there are far too many plot twists and turns.

As the film lumbers on director Carl Franklin resorts to some tired old clichés, like the stalled car, to inject some dramatic tension. But it is far too late and we've run of interest.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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