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  Out of Time Stop The Clock
Year: 2003
Director: Carl Franklin
Stars: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain, John Billingsley, Robert Baker, Alex Carter, Antoni Corone, Terry Loughlin, Nora Dunn, James Murtaugh
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 4 votes)
Review: Florida police chief Matt Lee Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is carrying out an affair with Ann (Sanaa Lathan), the wife of of his old, ex-football player schoolfriend Chris (Dean Cain). Chris is a bully towards his wife, and already suspects that's she's carrying on behind his back, so Whitlock, who is seeking a divorce from his own wife, detective Alex (Eva Mendes), is keen to look after her. They are both shocked when the doctor calls Ann to his office to give her some very bad news: she is suffering from cancer and only has a few months to live. A treatment at a Swiss clinic is the only hope, so Whitlock decides to take drastic action: he steals a large amount of drug dealers' money that has been seized by the police and hands it over to Ann to pay for the cure. But he's making a big mistake...

If a movie with the plot of Out of Time had been made in the 1940s, perhaps set in New York, it would be a fondly remembered, if minor, film noir, but here it's a thriller in a genre that can all too easily be taken for granted. It takes a smart effort like this, scripted by Dave Collard, to make the old clich├ęs come out fresh as a daisy: the morally shady hero in over his head, the femme fatale deftly drawing the sap in to her clutches, and the good girl heroine as the hero's chance at redemption. The only thing missing is an unhappy ending, but perhaps today's audiences don't take to that kind of denouement any more. Still, it doesn't take away too much from the final effect.

I don't want to give too much away, because this film is best when you're not too familiar with the twists of the plot (which takes a good half hour of careful setting up), but suffice to say Whitlock finds out he needs that money back pretty sharpish when the D.E.A. phone him up asking for the evidence for their investigation. And, of course, Whitlock is not in a position to give it to them. This is not a thriller where the hero has to stay one step ahead of a bunch of dumb cops and muscleheaded criminals, if anything, the dumb one is Whitlock after we realise what a mess he's gotten himself into.

Alex is the detective who takes the case of Ann's apparent disappearance, and Mendes plays her as a canny cop who begins to suspect that Whitlock is not telling her everything he knows. And yet, despite the upcoming separation, she still harbours feelings for him, offering him a way out of his situation if he'd only come clean. Whitlock's sidekick is an eccentric medical examiner, Chae (John Billingsley), who helps him out only to make things difficult for him when he tries to cover up the lies. The supporting cast fill out their roles with aplomb, but we're in no doubt the real star is Washington.

As the machinations of the plot entangle Whitlock further into potential disaster, Washington keeps your sympathies, and you want to see him succeed even though he's brought it all on himself. Washington has the ability to let us read his character's thoughts as he puts two and two together and tries not to panic; see the masterful suspense sequence involving the faxing over of phone records and the tell tale number of Whitlock's cell phone being called by the police in his own office. The langorous setting, all taking place in the blazing sunshine or humid night time, inspires a nice contrast with the exciting action, and while a lot of it's too convenient (like the baddies phoning up Whitlock at one point), you don't notice while watching - if you think about it, for the scam to work, Whitlock didn't really need to be implicated. All in all, a satisfying example of what could have been strictly run of the mill. Sassy music by Graeme Revell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Carl Franklin  (1949 - )

American actor, director and writer, who spent over a decade appearing mostly on TV in such shows as Fantastic Journey and The A-Team when he decided to try his hand at direction. He caught the attention of Roger Corman, who employed him for a handful of straight to video thrillers until Franklin scored a cult success with the accomplished One False Move. A Walter Mosley adaptation, Devil in a Blue Dress, was just as respected, and Franklin teamed up with Denzel Washington again for modern noir Out of Time. Other films include weepie One True Thing and humdrum Ashley Judd vehicle High Crimes.

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