It's the old Hitchcock stitch-up: an innocent man wrongly accused.Only this time, our hero isn't exactly innocent. He's an unfaithful married man, he steals money and he's too chicken to tell his estranged wife/investigating officer (Mendes) about his affair. But hey, it's Denzel Washington. And he's the good guy, right? Well, yes. However, there's a teasing shade of wickedness edged into his Chief Whitlock, that hardwood integrity stained with a faint residue from his Oscar-snatching turn as Training Day's bent copper. In truth, though, Whitlock's neither scumbag nor saint. Just a sucker who follows his dick and ends up with his balls in a vice.
Played out against sultry backwater Florida, Out Of Time takes its cues from sweaty, potboiler noirs, debut scribe David Collard digging Washington an over-elaborate hole before leaving him frantically manipulating witnesses and evidence to stop the dirt pouring in over his head. Whether it means dangling from a hotel balcony or covering up incriminating phone logs, Washington constantly teeters a split second away from disaster while trying to figure out who's framed him.
Sounds like No Way Out. But isn't as good. Because if Whitlock can stay one step ahead of the plot pivots, so can we - scoping every shifty convolution that the script tries to pull. But that's not to say that Out Of Time doesn't have plenty going for it. Before the set-up deflates into a limp pay-off, Collard and director Carl Franklin unpack their tale in brisk style, stirring humour and tension at a pace that rarely lulls long enough to allow the faults to shift into sharp focus.
And in a film that sucks its suspense from prickly dialogue and character conniving, we can be thankful for a smart cast who make their roles far less forgettable than they should be. Eva Mendes ices the atmosphere with a piercing radar-stare, while Dean Cain's cuckolded wife-smacker shows off a gaping mean streak. Joker in the pack, though, is John Billingsley, nudging conventions as the sidekick who turns out to be the smartest guy on the case.