Denzel Washington, Sanaa Lathan, and Eva Mendes in Out of Time (2003)


(director: Carl Franklin; screenwriter: David Collard; cinematographer: Theo van de Sande; editor: Carole Kravetz; music: Graeme Revell; cast: Denzel Washington (Matt Lee Whitlock), Sanaa Lathan (Ann Merai Harrison), Dean Cain (Chris Harrison), Eva Mendes (Alex Diaz-Whitlock), Alex Carter (Paul Cabbot), John Billingsley (Chae), Robert Baker (Tony Dalten); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Jesse B’Franklin/Neal H. Moritz; MGM; 2003)
“Out of time simply ran out of sense for it to be more than another disposable pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Denzel Washington reunites with director Carl Franklin (“Devil in a Blue Dress“) and stars in this vacuous mainstream police thriller set in the small town of Banyan Key, just outside of Miami, Florida. There’s just no fruitful script delivered by first-time screenwriter Dave Collard to take it into “Body Heat” film noir territory as intended, as Franklin once successfully did with his other pic about greed and infidelities “One False Move.” Franklin goes through a lot of trouble for a noirish setup only to let it rundown into an uninspiring action pic that fails to pass the smell test for credibility.

Franklin’s stylized direction makes it look good and provides the audience with some pleasure checking out the moody atmospheric scenic shots and the fun there is in scoping out the healthy anatomies of the three main stars: femme fatale Sanaa Lathan as Ann Merai Harrison, the bitchy detective played by Eva Mendes as Alex Diaz-Whitlock, and the affable Denzel Washington as the police chief Matt Whitlock. Matt’s a stud making it with his ex-high school flame Ann after his marriage with Alex is about to dissolve. But this sudsy situation is like a soap bubble — it bursts when you touch it. What’s left after the romantic storyline sinks is an empty feeling that you’ve been had by what it promised. Denzel goes into a heavy duty action-hero mode when framed for homicide and every scene is filled with nail-biting urgency that puts the chief under the gun to show how clever or lucky he is avoiding being a suspect. I found it all lacking in substance and purpose, and that in the end it was just a big sloppy mess of familiar formulaic happenings though filmed by Franklin with professional know-how to play the sex card for all its worth. Its escapist entertainment intent might please those who found things sexy and the serviceable plot to be diverting even if there were a dozen or so gaping holes. It is somehow watchable, even after its promises of a hard ride result only in a soft landing. Hey, it goes down in flames, but it at least makes no pretense to be a Hitchcock ripoff of the master’s accused innocent man theme — that’s because Denzel is not completely innocent.

In cop talk wisdom, the Denzel character offers to explain why he was suckered into being made the fall guy and broke his professional code of conduct: “Sometimes people do stupid things.” I found that apology for his amorality about as endearing as apologies from President Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger over their sexual misconduct. My take on Out of Time is that, sometimes people make stupid pics that require no explanations. Out of Time simply ran out of sense for it to be more than another disposable pic.

The plot involves Matt having a steamy role-playing affair with the dental hygienist siren Ann, who is married to a jealous wifebeater ex-pro football quarterback named Chris (Cain). He works the graveyard shift as a security guard at the hospital, which allows Matt time to visit Ann at night in her abode. Matt’s equally hot wife Alex, with reddish hair and wearing tight mini-skirts taking in all her curves and with a piercing stare that kills, has just been promoted to be a Miami homicide detective and is asking for a divorce because their marriage is not going smoothly. She suspects him of extracurricular activities, though she doesn’t know with whom. Ummm! When Matt learns that Ann has an incurable cancer and has only a few months to live, he takes the $485,000 of drug evidence money he’s holding for the DEA in the police station safe and gives it to her for alternative cancer treatment in Switzerland. To make the frame-up more convincing, Ann puts Matt down as beneficiary for her one million-dollar insurance policy–money he intends to use to pay back the drug money he pilfered. But things become clear to Matt that he’s been taken for a sucker when Anne and Chris die in a home fire that is called arson by the fire chief. Matt spends the remainder of his time in a frantic search for the players in this frame-up to clear his name and must also keep out of the sights of his detective wife and her team of big-city detectives investigating this double homicide, and he is being further pressed by the feds for the drug money. Matt teams up with his drinking buddy and most loyal pal, the loopy medical examiner Chae (Billingsley), with whom he feels most comfortable with as they talk through the drunken haze of their hangovers about their lifetime failures. In this desperate frame-up situation, Matt can rely only on his comic relief sidekick Chae for help.

If the film has some redeeming qualities, they do not come from the contrived action sequences. It’s only when Franklin uses the film’s stars to exert some comedy that everything gets on solid footing. An athletic Denzel hangs from a breaking hotel balcony in a scene reminiscent of Harold Lloyd. In another hilarious scene, an elderly white woman as an eyewitness finds all black people looking alike. The plot was so much rubbish, that when it was kicked aside the film seemed to breathe again. The bad news is that the film never completely gave up on the script and returned to it in the end, unfortunately I could care less about any of these unsympathetic figures and felt a happy ending was not warranted. This is one that both Franklin and Washington could put in the minus department as far their film credits go.