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OUT OF TIME

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain
Director: Carl Franklin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: January 6, 2004

“Did you get a good look at this fellow?”

“Yeah. He was about your height, your weight. Come to think of it, he kind of looked like you.”

“Looked like me? So he was good-looking?”

Film ***

Ever since his well-deserved Best Actor Oscar for Training Day, Denzel Washington has been soaring in a career high, portraying characters of ultra-complexity. His groundbreaking performance in Training Day was that of a notorious corrupt cop who seem to inhabit a bit of the devil in him. Washington followed that film with John Q., a modern day Dog Day Afternoon where he played an ordinary man pushed to extreme lengths to save his sick son's life.

Now, Washington ups the ante in Out of Time, where he mixes bits and elements from the aforementioned films, playing a character who is very much the protagonist of the story, yet he is not so innocent at the same time. In addition, the movie is as ultra stylish and absorbing as a contemporary film noir can get. It's simply hard not to caught up in the atmosphere of sunny Miami, which is perhaps one of the best places to set a noir thriller, just as Body Heat demonstrated more than 13 years ago.

Washington plays Matt Lee Whitlock, who's the Chief of Police of Banyon Key, Fla., a quiet beach going community where nothing big ever seems to go down. Matt's personal life has hit a bump, as he is on the verge of divorcing his wife, Alex (Eva Mendes), who has just been promoted to detective. Though the two are still on somewhat good terms, Matt has found himself engaging in an intense affair with Ann Merai Harrison (Sanaa Lathan), a former high school flame.

Although the two are seeing each other frequently, Ann happens to be a married woman, whose husband, Chris (Dean Cain), is prone to a violent temper and isn't too much friendly with Matt. It isn't too long until Ann reveals to her lover that she has a much terminal case of cancer. She also reveals that her husband has purchased a life insurance policy that's worth a million cool ones. In need of some special therapy, Matt makes a risky move by removing $500,000 from the evidence impound to give to her.

Matt's plan is to give Ann the evidence money so that she can go to Europe and get some alternative form of therapy, and that the payout money from the insurance policy can help recoup impounded cash. But things go awry when Matt gets a call, telling him that Ann's house has just been burned to the ground, with her and her husband both killed. Things don't get any better for Matt, as he discovers various evidence pointed in his direction, giving him both motive and opportunity, since Ann changed the beneficiary's name on the insurance policy from her husband's to Matt's shortly before biting the dust.

Reading this, you may wonder if I have spoiled too much, and while it sounds like I have, the truth is I haven't even begun to reveal a hint of the neat twists and turns that Out of Time has to offer. Part of the joy in watching this movie is seeing how Washington's character unknowingly dug himself into a super sized hole, and seeing how he covers up his every move in front of the investigating officer, which happens to be his ex. Added to his already traumatizing predicament, Matt is being pressured by the DEA, who need to take hold of the impounded money he helped make disappear.

Director Carl Franklin knows the thriller genre very well. He directed Washington eight years ago in the period thriller, Devil in a Blue Dress, as well as the recent military courtroom suspense of High Crimes. Franklin has such a keen understanding of film noir and the rules that go along with the twists and the turns, which Out of Time delivers plenty of at a breakneck pace. Given the plot scenario, which involves innocent man wrongly accused, Franklin may have even been inspired by Hitchcock, whom I think would've very much approved of this piece.

Out of Time is in the tradition of hot-wire film noir thrillers like Body Heat and Wild Things, where the heat of the setting is very much a character in itself. Directed with superb ease, and highlighted by another terrific performance from Washington, this is one of the more entertaining thrillers of recent memory.

Video ****

MGM's anamorphic transfer is evident proof that they wanted to ensure a good looking transfer, having taken notice of the movie's lush setting. The picture quality is simply outstanding in every sense, with beautiful colors to match. The image is consistently clear and sharp in both light and dark shots, making it a perfect introductory release for the new year.

Audio ***1/2

While Out of Time is a suspense movie, it doesn't rely much on spontaneous bursts of action, but that doesn't mean that the sound can't be just as empowering. MGM has fashioned a good enough 5.1 mix to the movie that comes alive superbly during the movie's moments of heightened tension. In addition, dialogue is delivered in strong clarity and the level of range is most impressive.

Features ****

MGM's Special Edition releases are some of the best come along under such a title, and Out of Time is certainly no exception. Included on the disc is a commentary by director Carl Franklin, a documentary titled "Out of Time: Crime Scene", as well as character profiles, two outtakes, screen tests, and an image and trailer gallery.

Summary:

Out of Time is a superb illustration of a dead on entertaining, and sexy, noir thriller in the Hitchcokian tradition. Denzel Washington's star power is put to tremendous use once again in this powerhouse piece of entertainment.