Out of Time
Directed by Carl Franklin
Written by David Collard
Starring Denzel Washington, Sanaa Lathan, Eva Mendes


Out of Time
Here is your list of proper audience reactions to mutter as you watch "Out of Time:" 'Whoa, wait a minute.' 'Uh-oh, hold on here.' 'Hey, that's not possible.' 'Excuse me, but are you kidding?' More inventive minds could no doubt add others, but you get the idea.

This is a film that takes the old phrase 'suspension of disbelief' to extremes never before seen in the movies. Police chief Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington) of Banyan Key, Florida, is separated from his wife, detective Alexandra Diaz-Whitlock (Eva Mendes) and is currently sleeping with Ann Harrison (Sanaa Lathan), his old high school sweetheart who's now married to cruel and brutal ex-football player Dean Cain. In Matt's police office safe he's also sitting on almost a half-million dollars of drug money that will be evidence in a big case coming up.

He learns that Ann is terminally ill with the big C, but could possibly be saved if she goes to Switzerland for a new treatment - but, guess what, it costs hugely. Too hugely unless he gives Ann the drug money to pay for it. But she has a solution. There's a million-dollar insurance policy on her life, and she makes him the beneficiary. When she dies, he'll replace the drug money with the insurance money and nobody will be the wiser. Should we ask what if she lives, and is saved by the treatment? Don't bother. The film does not trouble us with details like how to replace the money then.

So if you're willing to just forget that part, it's a plan. But like most plans in the movies there are some hidden traps, which any sixth-grader should be able to spot. The feds suddenly take over the drug case and want that money now. Then Ann and Chris appear to have died in an arson fire, and Matt was seen by a neighbor prowling around their house. And now detective Alex is taking over the case. As I say, a great suspension of disbelief is needed to get through this film.

The noose is tightening around Matt's neck, and he'd better get to the bottom of things before he's charged with grand theft and a double murder himself. And here's where the film goes completely out of whack; the script, and director Carl Franklin ("One False Move," "Devil in a Blue Dress") give Matt the speed of Superman, getting him from one place to another just ahead of Alex and the feds, moving evidence, switching papers, misleading everybody with simpleminded tricks, while trying to unravel the trap he's been caught in.

Washington has been playing secure, type-A men for so long that he does not play fear very well, and "Out of Time" would be much better if he did. It's as though his character has read ahead in the script and isn't worried about what might happen. We never believe that Matt is seriously in trouble; after all, he's Denzel Washington. The two women, Lathan and Mendes, both stunningly beautiful, play their roles well, as does John Billingsley as the local medical examiner Chae, Matt's drinking pal and the film's designated wisecracker. But "Out of Time" is plotted so brazenly by the numbers, with so little originality, that we sit numbed and distant from the characters and events, waiting for the end.