Director Carl Franklin is probably one of the most under-rated directors working today.
Back in 1992, Franklin’s “One False Move”, which starred a grizzled Bill Paxton, burst onto the scene and made a lot of people stand up and notice. Franklin then returned to the limelight in the 1995 gem “Devil in a Blue Dress” which teamed the director with Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle. These films were amazing and cinematic achievements. But after the disappointments of 1998’s tear-jerker “One True Thing” and the 2002’s substandard thriller “High Crimes”, Franklin seemed to be lost to the void.
This brings us to 2003 and his latest thriller “Out of Time”. Franklin has gone back to what he does best by finding a “flawed” hero embroiled in a sweaty crime thriller. And if that wasn’t enough he brings along “Devil” star Denzel Washington for the ride.
“Out of Time” finds police chief Matt Lee Whitlock (Washington) separated from his wife, Alex (Eva Mendes) and sleeping with sexy married woman, Anne (Sanaa Lathan). Anne’s husband, Chris (Dean Cain) is extremely jealous and very suspicious of his wife and Whitlock.
When a fire engulfs Anne and her husband, Whitlock’s life gets a lot more complicated as his estranged wife is assigned to the case. Now Whitlock is running out of time as he must unravel the arsonist murders and solve the case one step in front of his wife. He must do all this and not let his wife find out about his affair or he could become suspect number one.
Franklin really delivers with this quirky, quick-paced and tense thriller. He seems to be in fine form as he able to meld comedic awareness and tense drama without looking over his shoulder. He gets dynamite performances from leads Denzel and sidekick John Billingsley as well from supporting cast members Cain, Lathan and Mendes.
The true staple of a good Franklin movie is his mix of jazz and blues anthems throughout the score of his films. The mix here adds to this films intensity as is seen in the tense scenes which are echoed by seemingly tribal drums. The beating of the drums earmarks those scenes with tone and texture. I can’t imagine the hotel scene without the drums.
What is probably the most surprising of this film is the humor from Billingsley and Washington. Their chemistry being laced with hilarious zingers makes the film not only tense but pleasantly funny without ruining its impact. It’s so nice to see a thriller that isn’t afraid to use comedy.
This is Franklin’s best work since “Devil in a Blue Dress” and will hopefully return the director to the critical acclaim that found him with his earlier works.
(4 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer.