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There is little doubt in my mind that Denzel Washington is one of the most engaging actors around today. His heartfelt dedication to the characters that he inhabits is truly second to none. Few actors possess the powerful physicality that Denzel brings to his performances, and for that he's considered by many as one of the best actors of his generation. Despite all this; he hasn't really been blessed with the roles that he deserves. Take the recent John Q for example. Although the film features yet another powerhouse performance from Washington, the storyline is little more than cliché ridden trash. In a word - awful. After his Oscar winning turn as Alonzo Harris in Training Day - this was a real disappointment. So is Out of Time a step back in the right direction? Or just a step back? It's time to find out...

Out of Time: Special Edition
Movie
Denzel Washington plays Matt Whitlock, the Chief of Police in the small coastal town of Banyan Key. He operates a small, yet efficient force - his most recent achievement being the acquisition of four hundred and eighty five thousand dollars in drug money. You'd be wrong in thinking that his life was a happy one though. His soon to be ex-wife (Eva Mendes)  has served him his divorce papers, and now Matt tries to find comfort with Anne Harrison (Sanaa Lathan) - a troubled young woman who frequently finds herself on the receiving end of her violent husband. When Whitlock discovers that she's suffering from terminal cancer, he realises that he has to support her as best he can. The only hope for her is some experimental treatment in Europe - and that comes at a cost. Naturally, that money isn't freely available for Whitlock - but the drug money is. Risking everything, he gives the seized money to Anne, and they arrange to meet later that evening. The meeting never occurs. Her house goes up in flames the same evening and the bodies are confirmed as being those of Anne Harrison and her husband Chris. Now Matt must race to uncover a murky trail of stolen money, drugs and deceit, all the while staying two steps ahead of his own detectives. Why? Because all of the evidence points to him...

Out of Time is a reasonably competent thriller, albeit a somewhat predictable one. The film is directed with style by Carl Franklin, a man that has previously brought us Devil in a Blue Dress (which also starred Washington) and the rather disappointing High Crimes, which starred Morgan Freeman alongside Ashley Judd. There's no doubting that Out of Time is a visually pleasing film; cinematographer Theo Van De Sande has done wonders in bringing the visual splendour of Banyan Key to life. The director has also crafted some impressive set pieces, with the main attraction being a well-conceived action sequence in a hotel. Despite all of this, the film still feels far too much like a TV movie. The story just doesn't have the scope of a theatrical film. As such, the actors really don't have a great deal to get their teeth into. Many of the characters are a little too clear cut for my liking. Dean Cain of Superman fame plays the stereotypical bad guy, whereas Enterprise actor John Billingsley plays the rather overused comedy sidekick Chae. It's all a bit predictable.

Out of Time: Special Edition
Despite the abundance of one-dimensional characters, the actors have done a pretty good job in bringing them to our screens. Once again, Denzel Washington proves that he can bring life to even the simplest of scripts - turning in another solid performance here as officer Matt Whitlock. He manages to establish a connection with the audience early on, which is crucial if the film is to have any success. If you didn't care about the lead in a film such as this - it would be doomed to failure. Thankfully that was never an issue. The supporting players are also reasonably good here. It was pretty surprising to see Dean Cain in a high profile Hollywood picture, especially as I haven't seen him in anything since his role as the tight panted hero. As I've already mentioned - he plays a pretty one-dimensional bad guy - but he plays it well. He's genuinely menacing in the role, and I certainly wouldn't object to seeing him in more A list films from now on. Playing Whitlock's detective wife is Eva Mendes. Her breakout role was of course Training Day, although that hardly flexed her acting muscles - but I think we saw most of them! Out of Time gives her a little more to do, though she does spend most of the time wearing tight tops and skirts whilst scowling at her cheating husband. Do homicide detectives really look like that? I think not!

Overall, Out of Time is a slickly made, if utterly forgettable thriller. Although the performances from the cast are strong, they aren't really given the quality material that they deserve. A few convenient plot devices and an unlikely ending also add to the disappointment. Keeping things together are a few nicely choreographed scenes, and another solid performance from the ever-reliable Denzel Washington. It's certainly an improvement on John Q and for that I'd recommend Out of Time for a rental at the very least.

Out of Time: Special Edition
Video
Out of Time is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the print, for the most part looks first rate. I've already mentioned the beautiful cinematography from Theo Van De Sande and the transfer only helps to emulate that. The colours are rich and vibrant throughout, whether it be the beautiful sunsets or the deep blacks of the night. My only slight criticism would be a small amount of edge enhancement, but thankfully it never becomes a distraction. Overall though, this is a highly detailed transfer, with excellent levels of contrast and spot on colour reproduction. Not quite reference quality, but not far off.

Audio
Out of Time arrives with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track; and a slightly disappointing one it is too. I knew from the start that this wouldn't be a reference quality track as it's quite a dialogue heavy film. However, I was expecting a little more than this. The main problem is that the audio is pretty much glued to the front of the soundstage. The only time I came across any noticeable surround usage was when a dog started barking off to the right hand side. I really love immersive soundtracks and unfortunately this just didn't fit the bill. The track does do everything that it needs to though - dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and Graeme Revell's musical score sounds great. Overall then, a disappointing, yet functional soundtrack.

Extras
The film didn't do particularly well theatrically but MGM have still decided to reward it with a decent array of extra material. Kicking things off is an audio commentary with director Carl Franklin. He puts together a pretty fascinating commentary on the whole, with plenty of insight into the casting process; set design etc We also learn what had to be cut in order to gain the PG-13 certificate. The main problem with the commentary is that there are quite a few pauses. Particularly disconcerting were the pauses during the love scenes - so I'm not sure what he was up to during those! Certainly well worth a listen though.

Out of Time: Special Edition
Next we have a short twelve-minute featurette entitled Out of Time: Crime Scene. This is another of those highly promotional featurettes, which contains interviews with the cast and crew, all interspersed with clips from the movie. The featurette also briefly looks at how Dean Cain and the two leading ladies were cast, as well as Carl Franklin's directing techniques. Worth a watch once, but there's nothing really substantial here. Next up we have screen tests for Sanaa Lathan and Dean Cain. Five separate scenes are included in total, and surprisingly the screen tests for Sanaa Lathan are about ten times better than her performance in the actual film. I really wasn't that impressed with her in the theatrical cut, but here I thought she was much more convincing. Strange but true! The disc also includes two outtakes from the film, neither of which evoked a single laugh, smile or chuckle! A nice thought, but a pointless addition. The only other features are a photo gallery and a selection of trailers. The photo gallery automatically rotates images every few seconds, all set to music from the film. Trailers for Out of Time, Antitrust, Jeepers Creepers 2, Barbershop, Dark Blue and Die Another Day are also included here.

Out of Time: Special Edition
Summary
At the end of the day, Out of Time is a good little film that could have been so much more. If it weren’t for the competent directing from Carl Franklin, and the performances from Washington and co, Out of Time would have been real bottom of the pile material. As it is, Out of Time is a perfectly watchable film, and one that should suit the home entertainment market down to the ground.  The DVD that MGM has put together is also reasonably solid, although, like the film, it fails in a couple of areas - most notably the rather uninspired soundtrack. Still, it's great to see Washington doing what he does best again, and I'm already counting the days until Man on Fire, which is directed by the ever-reliable Tony Scott. I can't wait!


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