Out of Time (review)

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Miami Heat

It’s like one of those Florida noir books written by, oh, Carl Hiassen or someone, all rain and lightning and oppressive humidity and double-crossing dames and fishing off the end of piers and cold beers and murder and frame-ups and laid-back cops, only it’s a movie, with golden cinematography like the sun’s forever setting and the sweat glistening sexily on the double-crossing dames and the twists and the turns that keep you on the edge of your seat and munching your popcorn happily as you laugh nervously through the suspenseful bits. It’s a corker of a flick, this one.

Corker? Heh. I sound like somebody’s grandmother, but there’s something kinda wonderfully old-fashioned-Hollywood about Out of Time, like it’s a Double Indemnity for the 21st century, where cell phones and GPSes and scanners and fax machines figure prominently in the plot and the police chief and his married girlfriend can be a lot more explicit in their sex play than Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck ever dreamed of. But it’s the same stuff on the inside, the self-delusion and the fantasy of running away with an illicit lover and the insurance shenanigans and the conspiring and the never knowing how it’s gonna turn out. Pretty much the only unfortunate thing about this film is its instantly forgettable title. Out of Time may be a great time at the movies, but remembering what it’s called could be a stumper.

Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher, John Q) is the police chief of Banyan Key, outside Miami, and he’s getting it on with sweet, sultry Sanaa Lathan (Brown Sugar, Catfish in Black Bean Sauce) while her husband, Dean Cain (Christmas Rush) isn’t looking. Hubby beats her, of course, which riles up the chivalrous gentleman in Washington. Bad things are gonna happen to someone, and when they do, in will swing Washington’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Eva Mendes (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, 2 Fast 2 Furious), a newly minted Miami homicide detective, which gives you an idea of what kind of bad thing will happen. As a side dish to the murder, there’s the matter of some half a mill in confiscated drug money that Washington’s been babysitting, and then it manages to find its way out of the station safe, and now the DEA wants it as evidence. Oh what a tangled web and so on, etcetera.

To say much more than that would be to spoil all the fun that comes in watching the many surprises unfold — and that Out of Time does surprise is the most delightful thing about it, if you’re like me and always figure out who did what to whom and why from, like, the trailer. Surprising, too, is how much humor is mixed in with the suspense, and not just the giggles that come from relief, either, like when Washington — who’d be the primary suspect in all the bad things that happen if only he wasn’t using his position as chief of police to alter or quash entirely all those pieces of damning evidence against him — escapes from one brush with being found after another. No, there’s also John Billingsley (White Oleander) as the M.E. of Banyan Key, Washington’s pal and so effortlessly funny in what could have been a throwaway part that he almost brings the thankless role of the “humorous best friend” to a whole new level… and Billingsley, clever guy, slips in an undercurrent of hostility to the character, too, one that makes you keep him on your radar as a possible bad guy. It’s the fine cast as well as the fine writing (the script is by David Collard) that make mountains of suspense out of what might have been molehills of diversions and ploys.

Now, it may well be that if I were to sit down and really pick apart the plot, it would fall to pieces, not that I can think of any dead or loose ends even now, after the excitement of a genuinely diverting movie has passed. But it doesn’t matter. The true test of a film like Out of Time is: Is it so thrilling and precarious and involving while you’re watching that you forget to pick it apart? And Out of Time passes with an A+.

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