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Out of Time

  Out of Time
Denzel Washington tries to understand why he thought capri pants were a good idea.

© 2003, MGM
All Rights Reserved

When he learns the news that his mistress (Sanaa Lathan, "Love & Basketball") has been given a cancer death sentence, suburban Miami police chief Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington) has to make tough decisions to save her life. Stealing money from a recent drug bust to help pay for experimental medical treatments for his beloved, Whitlock soon finds himself in the middle of an elaborate maze of bad ideas and misfortunes. With his future ex-wife (Eva Mendes, "2 Fast 2 Furious") leading an investigation into Whitlock's corrupt scheme, and the DEA looking for their money, Whitlock tries to stay one step ahead.

"Out of Time" (IMDb listing) reteams Denzel Washington with his "Devil in a Blue Dress" director, Carl Franklin. This time, in place of steamy, blue note noir, we have a Floridian thriller with a pulse that would make Buddy Rich sweat. "Time" isn't challenging, fresh, nor all that competent. It moves like a toddler on his first big wheel and is very concerned with developing the maximum amount of tension in almost every scene.

Franklin is a rock solid director, tastefully moving from genre to genre within his career ("One False Move," "One True Thing," "High Crimes"). The filmmaker seems at home with this thrill ride, keeping the anxiety level high, and encouraging Washington to play down his beyond tired "noble man" act for the first time in a long time. As mainstream and unflinchingly tepid as the story is, Franklin gives it all the right bells and whistles. He employs a wonderful score by Graeme Revell to disarm the mood, and keeps Washington sweaty and breathless. Instead of trying to outwit the twists and turns of the plot, the Whitlock character is a victim of them.

Denzel Washington works very well with Franklin, attempting to portray a character who doesn't always do right by the law. Dare I say Washington's Whitlock is a bit slimy? The change is good for the actor, as it allows him freedom to shape a persona very different than he's used to playing. The trademark "Denzel dead eyes" concentration is still there, but Washington's check-cashing turn here (resulting in a career-high payday) isn't the zombie walk it could have been. "Out of Time" is his best work in ages, placing him at the mercy of a plot based on drama rather than bombastic speeches.

While co-stars Saana Lathan and Eve Mendes are equally good in their roles, the characters seem to have been given to the wrong actresses. As Whitlock's soon-to-be ex-wife, Mendes looks more like his daughter (20 years separates these two), and often acts like one. It ends up being a small distraction in a film full of big thriller set pieces, but a distraction nonetheless. Lathan would've been better cast in the spouse role, but she's stuck doing the femme fatale routine, which doesn't fit her. Mendes has the curves and the attitude to knock this role out of the park. Again, both actresses give fine performances. They are just very noticeably miscast.

"Out of Time's" climax is more labored, over thought, and simplistic than anything else in the film. It leaves the crowd cold, and wanting for something that can match the kicks presented in the previous 90 minutes. Franklin is in a tough position, as 80% of thrillers aren't quite able to maintain their flow all the way to the home stretch. Because the script is terribly concerned with leaving on a twisty note, "Out of Time" doesn't leave the senses with a slap like it should. This is a relatively tight thriller, only slackening in the end, and that's a pretty impressive accomplishment.

Filmfodder Grade: B

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