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Out of Time (2003)

How do you solve a murder when all the evidence points to you.

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 105 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A

Late one sultry night in Banyan Keys, Florida, Police Chief Matt Whitlock (Denzel Washington) is called out to the house of Ann Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) about a break-in. Ann takes Whitlock to the bedroom where the alleged crime took place, declares that the intruder ‘kinda looked like you’, and gets Whitlock to re-enact the ‘assault and entry’. In fact, Whitlock is Ann’s lover, and this has all been an elaborate erotic charade, but it also serves as an economic introduction to all that is to come in ‘Out of Time’ – the confusion of police investigation and personal life, the framing of Whitlock as a criminal, and a heady mix of sex, rôle-playing and unexpected twists.

After injudiciously borrowing some drug money being held as state’s evidence in the police station safe, the well-intentioned Whitlock finds himself sinking into an ever more compromising position as he assists Alex (Eva Mendes), a Miami homicide cop who also happens to be his estranged wife, in the investigation of a double-murder where all the clues keep leading straight to his own doorstep. Before you can say No Way Out, Whitlock is evading federal DEA agents, covering up a trail of incriminating evidence, and trying to stay one step ahead of his wife’s detective work while himself trying to work out what the hell is going on before it is too late.

If charisma is that indefinable quality which can make all the difference between a ham and a Hamlet, then Denzel Washington must be mainlining the stuff. Even in Training Day, he rightly earned an Academy Award for making his murderously corrupt cop seem so beguiling, and again ‘Out of Time’ is held together by the actor’s charm, which retains our sympathies for his police chief long after he has crossed the line from serving justice to obstructing it.

‘Out of Time’ is, like Washington’s earlier collaboration with director Carl Franklin ‘Devil in a Blue Dress’, a steamy update of film noir. While probably little more than a lightweight diversion in the history of cinema it is nonetheless distinguished from its many brethren by the high calibre of its acting and the seeming effortlessness with which its elaborate plot unfolds. Dave Collard’s screenplay is not just an intricate mesh of twists and turns, but also contains some wonderfully arch dialogue, especially in the opening encounter between Ann and Whitlock, and a later episode where Whitlock is confronted over his affair with Ann by Ann’s husband Chris (Dean Cain) in a priceless verbal exchange that is made all the more menacing for being so calmly oblique.

So if you like your crime thrillers to be a nice and easy cocktail of Southern comfort with a twist, then take time out for ‘Out of Time’.

It's Got: Terminal illness, arson, insurance fraud, theft, murder and beer.

It Needs: To explain how Ann and Whitlock have full sex without undressing. Continuity error, or desperate attempt to reduce the films rating?


A well-crafted, if lightweight, steamy noir thriller distinguished by its excellent acting and sophisticated script.