Claudia Leisinger


Dir: Carl Franklin
Stars: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain
Out: December 26th 2003


Small-town Florida police chief Matt Whitlock (Washington) tries to help out his dying lover (Lathan) with some confiscated drug money but when she and her husband are supposedly killed, Whitlock becomes the chief suspect in the investigation he and his soon-to-be ex-wife detective (Mendes) head up….

It must feel good for Denzel Washington to occasionally dip into Friday night froth like ‘Out Of Time’, slip off his given mantle of Hollywood’s Noble Black Man - an office he’s filled with distinction in films inspiring (‘Malcolm X’) and infuriating (‘John Q’) - kick back and relax. Everyone needs a little playtime and Denzel definitely got game, effortlessly getting down, dumb and even a little dirty in this enjoyably trashy, sun-splashed thriller.

A flawed cop, though less malevolent than his Oscar-winning, scenery-chugging turn in ‘Training Day’, Washington’s Chief Whitlock is cheerfully led around by a soft heart and a hard on, becoming the patsy in a carefully planned con. How Whitlock engineers the outsmarting of fellow cops and crooks before he effectively collars himself provides the fun and recalls the superior Kevin Costner thriller ‘No Way Out’. ‘Out Of Time’ adds an extra frisson in Whitlock’s tussles with his ambitious, investigating estranged wife, lending a wicked personal touch to matters of trust and deception.

Director Carl Franklin has still yet to better his stunning debut ‘One False Move’ but this is several steps up on recent outings, displaying a good sense of location, plus the swishy camera moves and uptempo rhythms to keep things lively. Both he and neophyte screenwriter David Collard understand that the more preposterous the thrills, the better this kind of caper works. It’s when they have to do the paperwork, tie up the loose ends, that they start to unravel, hence the disappointingly conventional climax here.

Still, Mendes and Lathan practically purr, there’s genuine comic relief from John Billingsley as Whitlock’s goofy sidekick and Washington’s unbeatable star charisma. Basically a case of elegant slumming all round, it’s no timeless classic but never threatens to outstay its welcome. Silly, sexy, sleek, what more do you want for Friday night entertainment?

* * * (three stars)

'© Highbury Entertainment 2003. No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.'