Out of Time (12A)
This throwback to the Forties tradition of film noir has more twists and turns that Hampton Court maze and, amazingly, makes them all work.
Denzel Washington is the small town Florida police chief embroiled in an affair with a married woman who finds his ordered world all a-jumble when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Despite his lover’s protestations that “This not fixable” he opts for desperate measures and steals $500,000 in drug money from the police station’s safe to fund potentially life-saving treatment in Switzerland.
But things take an unexpected turn when the DEA suddenly demands the hand-over of the cash for a trial. Only Washington knows it’s gone but his colleague (and estranged wife) Eva Mendes, antennae twitching, soon realises something is up.
It is then down to Washington to stay one step ahead of everyone – wife, the DEA and his lover’s suspicious, unpleasant husband (Dean Cain).
There was a lukewarm response in America to Out of Time, but it is actually one of the more cerebral films to come out of mainstream Hollywood in a long time. Good and tense, with Washington veering between patsy and hero, it harks back to those classic Warner Bros titles of the past when everyone had something to hide and no one was particularly likeable.
In the hands of director Carl (One False Move) Franklin, who also previously collaborated with Washington on Devil in a Blue Dress, Out of Time boasts a touch of the Hitchcocks – a dumb sap is ripped off by a sassy dame. Washington plays it all with panache tinged with panic while the three-pronged narrative – the DEA chasing the cash, Washington avoiding his wife’s growing suspicions and locating two other characters who hold the key to the escalating situation – is tidily delivered.
John Billingsley, as Washington’s grungy medical examiner pal, gets all the best comic one-liners and provides a buffer to the energy, while one sequence is worth the price of admission along, as Washington struggles with a suspect on a balcony that is slowly, inexorably, coming away from the wall.
Out of Time deliberately looks to the past in terms of its construction, but is balanced by Washington, Mendes, Cain and Sanaa Lathan as Washington’s secret squeeze, all of whom give performances firmly rooted in the present.
Star rating: ***