NICK OF TIME
(director: John Badham; screenwriter: Patrick Sheane Duncan; cinematographer: Roy H. Wagner; editors: Frank Moriss/Kevin Stitt; cast: Johnny Depp (Gene Watson), Christopher Walken (Mr. Smith), Charles S. Dutton (Huey, Shoeshine Man), Peter Strauss (Brendan Grant), Gloria Reuben (Krista Brooks), Marsha Mason (Governor Eleanor Grant), Courtney Chase (Lynn Watson), G.D. Spradlin (Mystery Man), Roma Maffia (Ms. Jones); Runtime: 89; Paramount; 1995)
“This inconsequential suspense yarn brings little to the table and concludes with an unsatisfying ending — which was more silly than tense.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An Amtrak train pulls into LA with accountant Johnny Depp and his little daughter (Chase) aboard. They are approached in the station by Christopher Walken and Roma Maffia, posing as cops and telling them they are being brought in for questioning. They are placed in a van and Walken tells them if Depp hasn’t killed the liberal Governor of California Marsha Mason — within the next 80 minutes, then Roma will kill his daughter. The randomly chosen Depp is given a loaded gun and the governor’s schedule for the afternoon, and told in a snarling tone by Walken that he better kill her.
The gimmicky premise grabs your attention, but the film fails to maintain its suspense as the story line becomes increasingly more absurd. Why the nondescript “Everyman” character played by Depp would believe that Walken wouldn’t kill his daughter anyway, even if he did kill the governor, is just one of the major flaws in this ridiculous premise.
The action begins to take hold when Walken follows the conflicted accountant on his mission and prevents him from telling anyone about what he’s been asked to do. Depp’s only source of help, comes reluctantly from a shoeshine man (Dutton).
The film’s main sphere of operation is in the Bonaventure Hotel, where the governor has her headquarters and where she is scheduled to give a speech. Walken keeps his serpentine plan going by constantly threatening Depp with the loss of his daughter’s life if he doesn’t do the job.
The blurred reason why the governor must be eliminated, is because a wealthy backer wants revenge because she backed out of promises made to him and has become too liberal. G. D. Spradlin plays this mysterious tycoon.
If you buy into the story line, then you should find the film suspenseful much like a Hitchcock thriller. If you don’t, the only consolation is that the acting was good. As far as I’m concerned, it was a preposterous premise. There is no way the insiders in the governor’s camp wouldn’t have come up with another plan, like the usual one of a professional assassin with a high-powered rifle.
The only surprise the film could have for me, is if both Depp’s daughter and the governor were killed. This inconsequential suspense yarn brings little to the table and concludes with an unsatisfying ending — which was more silly than tense. Director John Badham (“Saturday Night Fever”/”Stakeout”) tells the story effectively in real time, which makes this forgettable film watchable.
REVIEWED ON 3/4/2001 GRADE: C-