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Rated 3 stars
by 1304 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Denzel's Crisis Management
by Jeffrey Chen

Out of Time can easily be seen as one of those crime thrillers studios seem obligated to produce every season, complete with twists, turns, and suspense -- a harmless good time for you and your date. But there's something more to this one. The new Denzel Washington starrer is actually a comedy disguised as a crime thriller. I laughed quite a bit watching it, and I don't mean I was laughing at it. The movie is genuinely funny.

This is because Out of Time gets a lot of mileage from its specialty, which happens to be the close call. The first act is an elaborate set-up designed to give our protagonist, Banyan Key police chief Matt Whitlock (Washington), every situation possible in which to demonstrate his lightning-witted escape artist skills. Because of his immoral involvement with an arson victim, the supposed surplus-of-evidence now points to him. However, the lead detective, Alex (Eva Mendes), who happens to be the wife he's about to divorce, hasn't uncovered that evidence, so Matt hides/alters/destroys each piece, one-by-one, but only right before his wife is about to discover it. This creates a bravura sequence culminating in his police station, where at one point, under great duress, he intercepts a fax of incriminating phone numbers, secretly takes it into his office, scans it into his computer, uses some kind of amazing graphics/word processor program to erase all of his numbers, then faxes it back to the fax machine (pretty much impossible, of course, but you've got to give the writer, Dave Collard, credit for humor and bold creativity). My description doesn't give justice to the franticness under which Matt operates, and it's pricelessly funny to see the look of relief on his face followed by a look of horror as he realizes he must immediately thwart the next potentially implicating situation. We laugh because we'd probably react the same way if faced with such a landslide of crises so crazy we could hardly bring ourselves to believe what was happening. 

The close calls continue when Matt must beat Alex to a hotel where the real criminal might be staying. Naturally, she arrives shortly after he does, but not before he bungles collaring his quarry. The ensuing chase gives us another chance to marvel at Matt's quick-thinking (and to yell "Fruit cart!" when he inevitably knocks over a rolling cart of hotel equipment while on the run). From a death-defying fight on a balcony to Matt's final move to make his getaway, the sequence is worthy of applause and emerges as the best part of the movie.

Director Carl Franklin gives his movie a laid-back mood, a welcome antidote to the genre's usual overload of melodramatic suspense. It's precisely this tropical feel that gives us a chance to find the fun in the movie's string of crisis avoidances. The movie invites us to have some fun. That it has Washington beckoning us to our theater seats is a big plus. Because of his strong charisma, we find ourselves rooting for a character -- a police chief having an affair with a married woman while he himself is not yet divorced -- who  otherwise isn't worth it. But that's what makes Washington such a great movie star, for the great movie stars are the ones who will get the viewer on his side, even if he's scummy.

Out of Time's big faltering point involves its ending, which wraps up in a corny, predictable way. I loathe lazy endings because they give us the movie's last impression, and it's never good to walk away with a slightly sour taste, especially when the middle was so succulent. One gets the notion that Collard and Franklin ran out of clever close calls, and that the movie just had to end sooner or later. Still, anyone who decides to use a scene from Legally Blonde as foreshadowing deserves snaps overall for ingenuity.

(Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and rated "PG-13" for sexual content, violence and some language.)

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