Tuesday, June 6, 2017

In short: Out of Time (2003)

This one’s a fun enough twisty little thriller directed by Carl Franklin with elements that look more noirish than they’ll turn out to be, its world view a bit too bound for a happy ending. The film is mostly concerned with showing how its hero - Denzel Washington as the chief of police of a tiny town in Florida – tries to juggle half a dozen problems (among them his cop soon to be ex-wife Eva Mendes and various streaks of very bad luck) to keep himself out of jail (or worse), after he has stolen drug money to pay for his girlfriend’s (who is also married to a wife-beating Dean Cain, no less) cancer treatment and finds himself betrayed. All that despite him not being exactly the brightest guy in the world.

Because the Chief is played by Denzel Washington, and his crimes are based on compassion and love (well, and lust, too, but you know) and not hurting anyone, our protagonist is not meant to be one of those thriller characters whose suffering the viewers are supposed to cheer on but rather meant for identification with his plight, an approach that makes sense but that rather divorces this from true neo noir status by being just too damn nice. As a thriller, the film suffers a bit from a script (by David Collard) that plays so fair with the audience it tends to telegraph all of its twists so clearly one might think it takes its audience to be even bigger idiots than its protagonist. There’s also a suspense scene that suggests that either Collard or his hero doesn’t know about the magic of find and replace, but I’m gonna let that slide, too.

Fortunately, the film has other things to recommend it. Once I got over the lack of neo noir goodness, I enjoyed Out of Time’s good-natured tone where not all friendship and love is based on betrayal and lies as a nice change from the more bitter and cynical stuff I usually watch when I indulge in thrillers.

Another plus is of course Denzel Washington. Even in a bad or mediocre movie, Washington is always at the very least fun to watch. Here, he works very well as the normal guy in far over his head, even though I never really bought him as quite as dumb as his character is supposed to be. There’s also a game supporting cast, and Carl Franklin’s direction that tends a bit towards the picture postcard slick but also does create a sense of (fake) place and goes through your usual suspense sequences with conviction, timing and friendly winks and nods towards the audience that do go well with the general tone of Out of Time.

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