Over a span of two months each Wednesday will be Denzel Day at Keith & the Movies. This silly little bit of ceremony offers me a chance to celebrate the movies of a truly great modern day actor – Denzel Washington.
Alfred Hitchcock was fascinated with the idea of innocent men trying to clear their names of an assortment of offenses they didn’t commit. It’s a theme he revisited numerous times often adding his own twist to the scenario. Innocence, guilt, mistaken identity – all elements Hitchcock loved to explore. You can’t help but see that influence in director Carl Franklin’s “Out of Time”.
Franklin and screenwriter David Collard tell a story thick with Hitchcockian flavor and more twists than a classic 1940’s noir. In their film Denzel Washington plays the man with the deck stacked against him but with a small caveat. He’s not what you would call a squeaky clean victim with a spotless moral record.
Washington plays Matt Whitlock, police chief of the sleepy little town of Banyan Key which is nestled about an hour’s drive from Miami. This easy going Florida Keys community of around 1,300 people is rocked when a suspicious house fire takes the life of a local husband and wife Chris and Anne Harrison. The fire chief rules it to be arson and a homicide investigation begins.
Now enter the twists. Matt has been having an affair with Anne (Sanaa Lathan), an old flame from high school, and the abusive Chris (Dean Cain) is suspicious. Things get more complicated when a cancer diagnosis, a life insurance policy, and $485,000 in seized drug money all come into play. Oh, and toss in Matt’s estranged wife Alex (Eva Mendes), recently promoted to detective and brought in to assist with the case.
Matt finds himself doing everything he can to hide his connections to the case while also carrying out a secret investigation of his own. Collard’s script has a field day putting the character through the ringer as he constantly heads off new evidence to keep the police off his trail only to avoid being caught by the skin of his teeth. The sheer lack of plausibility would make it easy to dismiss if not for Franklin’s swift pacing which never allows us too much time to dwell on any of it.
Of course it helps to have Denzel Washington as your lead. Despite the ramped up tension (especially in the second half) Washington gives what you could call a laid-back performance. Aside from a few beads of sweat and a couple of concerned looks, Washington and his character maneuvers through the many twists and turns confidently and relaxed yet (as always) with plenty of charisma. It’s only at the very end that we see Matt lose the control he has held (though at times precariously) through the entire film.
Washington and Franklin previously worked together in the exceptional 1995 neo-noir “Devil in a Blue Dress”, a film I hold in high regard. “Out of Time” doesn’t quite reach that level but it’s a much different movie despite sharing some of the same elements. It works best as a sugar-rush thriller, light and undeniably absurd. But to be honest that’s a big part of what makes it so much fun.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS