Carl Franklin’s Out of Time is a relentlessly paced, tightly plotted thriller that focuses on delivering pure entertainment value from start to finish. It may not be as ambitious as Franklin’s previous collaboration with Denzel Washington, the great Devil in a Blue Dress, but, as we like to say, it fucking owns.
Matt Whitlock (Washington) likes the sleepy Florida town of Banyan Key, where he oversees a four-officer police department; there’s so little to do that he can afford to knock back a few beers while on the job and then disappear for kinky sex games with his married girlfriend, Ann (Sanaa Lathan). But complications keep creeping in around the edges of Matt’s life. Ann’s husband, the volatile Chris (Dean Cain), beats her, and Matt is less and less willing to stand by and let it happen. His own estranged wife, Alex (Eva Mendes), a big city homicide detective, is trying to serve him with divorce papers. And Ann has cancer–which has just been declared terminal.
In a valiant effort to give Ann the financial cushion she needs to seek out an alternative treatment–or, if nothing else, spend her last few months alive safely away from Chris’s reach–Matt dips into the evidence locker and hands her $485K confiscated in a drug deal. It’s fine, he reassures her. He’ll figure something out. As slowly as the system grinds, no one will need that money for months. And with Ann changing her life insurance policy to make him the new beneficiary, he could, bleakly, always replace the missing money with that, once the inevitable happens.
Except in Out of Time, the inevitable happens all too quickly. Chris and Ann’s house burns down, with two charred bodies inside, and everyone suspects foul play. The movie takes a Big Clock-esque turn as, with a mountain of evidence pointing in his direction, Matt scrambles to officially investigate the crime while trying to cover up his own relation to it, something that gets even more difficult once the driven, hard-nosed Alex–who knows him all too well–is on the scene. And the DEA is calling: they need that missing $485K now.
Franklin serves up the film’s complications with a ton of flair, and Matt’s ingenuity–sometimes aided by luck, but only in a way that feels fair–makes for incredibly tense, engaging problem-solving. It’s all aided by charismatic performances (especially from Washington and Mendes), humor (especially from Matt’s best friend, John Billingsley’s Chae), and a sultry Florida atmosphere of sweat, steam, and sex. This is one of the most enjoyable combinations of “propulsive” and “fun” that you can find, and it depresses me that it barely made bank in a year where the highest-grossing movies included things like Bruce Almighty, Anger Management, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Out of Time is streaming on Starz.