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Friday, October 3, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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'Out of Time': Cast turns up heat in thriller bedeviled by predictability

Seattle Times movie critic

Moody jazz purrs on the soundtrack and palm trees sway in the sultry breeze as Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington), chief of police in a small Florida town, arrives at the home of the sort of woman who looks like trouble tied up with a ribbon. He looks at her like she's his last beer on a hot night, and they do exactly what couples do in the opening scenes of this kind of movie, sweat glistening and voices low. It's all very "Body Heat," which is to say, we've seen it all before.

Director Carl Franklin, back in the mid-'90s, made a terrific movie with Washington called "Devil in a Blue Dress," which brought freshness to the familiar noir style by setting its tale in a predominantly black neighborhood in post-World War II Los Angeles. That movie had a kind of visual jazz to it; jumpy tension, glittery jewel-box colors, chewy dialogue. And yet it failed at the box office, and Franklin's work has gotten less interesting since.

Which brings us to "Out of Time," a well-performed, perfectly watchable thriller that's nonetheless as generic as its title. Matt, who drinks on the job and doesn't seem especially smart, isn't much of a cop or much of a husband — we quickly learn that the siren in the opening scene (gorgeous Sanaa Lathan) is not his wife. So he's a prime target for a con (which you can see coming if you've got your eyes open) and spends much of the movie trying to extricate himself out of a mess, but only getting in deeper.

Movie review


**½
"Out of Time," with Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain, John Billingsley, Robert Baker, Alex Carter. Directed by Carl Franklin, from a screenplay by Dave Collard. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence and some language. Several theaters.
Dave Collard's screenplay has too many holes in it, but Franklin and the cast bring enough style to bump it up a few notches. Washington, perfectly controlled as always, pulls off the tricky task of playing a character less intelligent than he is; Matt has an ever-so-faint slackening in the jaw, and Washington lets us see him thinking just a beat behind everybody else. And former Seattleite John Billingsley brings some welcome (if awkwardly scripted) humor as a sidekick medical examiner.

Perhaps "Out of Time" represents a gradual return to form for Franklin; it's certainly better than the dismal "High Crimes." But I'd still rather watch "Devil in a Blue Dress" again. Maybe Franklin would too.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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