Dir: Carl Franklin. US. 2003. 114 mins.
This lightweight sub-noir thriller from director Carl Franklin is not merely implausible, it is preposterous. A star vehicle for Denzel Washington, who was reportedly paid $20m for his efforts, the film just about gets by on his megastar screen presence but stretches the limits of belief to the maximum.
Box office results will be soft; although the Florida Keys setting is attractive, there is little fresh to mark it out in the marketplace domestically or overseas. Is Washington worth $20m' Maybe, so long as the picture has the weight to hang his talents on. Out Of Time is neither an intense thriller like The Bone Collector nor a powerful character study like Training Day. It will outperform the previous Franklin/Washington collaboration 1995's Devil In A Blue Dress which topped out at $16m in North America, but will be hard-pressed to hit the $66m grossed by The Bone Collector.
Overseas, its multi-racial cast might work against it at the competitive autumn/winter box office, which is a shame because for once the race issue is not even addressed in the drama. The casting is colour-blind, and, the fact that the two central relationships are inter-racial - one black and Latin, one black and white - goes unmentioned in the script.
Matt Lee Whitlock (Washington) is the chief of police in the small sunny community of Banyan Key, Florida. Upset after his separation from his wife Alex (Mendes), also a police woman, he is having an affair with a married woman Ann Merai (Lathaan) whose husband Chris (Cain) is an abusive ex-footballer.
Whitlock, who has just completed a successful drugs bust and is sitting on the small fortune in banknotes from the bust, lives a fairly gentle life, drinking with his police sidekick Chae (John Billingsley, a white sidekick to a black cop for once) and a popular presence around town.
But all takes a mysterious turn when Ann Merai announces that she has terminal cancer with just a few months to live. In a fit of compassion, Whitlock lends her the drug money but hours later she and Chris are killed when their house explodes in an apparent arson attack - in which Whitlock realises that, if discovered, he is the prime suspect.
With Alex drafted in from nearby Miami to work on the case alongside him, Whitlock spends the rest of the film trying to keep one step ahead of his colleagues in solving the crime, clearing his name and retrieving the money. To make matters worse, the FBI is putting pressure on him to return the money as soon as possible.
For all Franklin's cool and slick film-making, the story falls flat from the very beginning. The set-up (and, in fact, conclusion for that matter) is so obvious that Whitlock looks like an idiot for falling for any of the deceit in the first place, while the incompetence of Alex and her team in being duped by Whitlock is startling and equally hard to swallow.
There are pleasures along the way including a couple of nail-biting setpieces and solid supporting work from sex-bombs Mendes (who was also in Training Day with Washington) and Lathaan. And of course Denzel, as energetic and amiable as he's ever been, is always watchable, even if his character is a dummy.
Prod cos: Original Films, Monarch Pictures. US dist: MGM. Int'l dist: MGM/20th Century Fox.
Exec prods: Kevin Reidy, Damien Saccani, Jon Berg, Alex Gartner.
Prods: Neal H Moritz, Jesse B Franklin.
Scr: Dave Collard.
DoP: Theo Van De Sande.
Prod des: Paul Peters.
Ed: Carole Kravetz.
Mus: Graeme Revell.
Main cast: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain.