Ostensibly, first-time screenwriter Dave Collard’s Florida noir—a story that seems condensed from the vapors emitted by Body Heat—is no more promising a piece of potboiler suspense than director Carl Franklin’s last effort, the regrettable High Crimes. But in apparent atonement for whatever wayward thinking led him down the Freeman-Judd path, Franklin has transformed Out of Time into a highly felicitous comedy of infidelities and busted-up romances—a cautionary tale for guys who can’t help but think with the wrong head.
As small-town chief-of-police Matt Whitlock, Denzel Washington is refreshingly cast as something of a rube—a hometown boy who’s just fine for handling kittens up trees, but who probably owes his job (like everything else) more to his sex appeal than to any real investigative prowess. This is Florida after all, where the restlessness of libidos seems commensurate to the rise of mercury in thermometers and the outbreak of sweat beads on foreheads. So can anyone fault Matt for his irrepressible urge to look for love (or at least a quick fuck) in all the wrong places, especially once his marriage to a smoldering homicide detective (Eva Mendes, all piercing dark eyes and tangly brown hair) hits the skids? No, or at least not until one of those not-so-innocuous flings comes back to bite like a bad case of VD.
As its title implies, Out of Time concerns Matt’s frantic efforts to stay one beat ahead of the big-city detectives investigating his lover-du-jour’s (Sanaa Lathan) apparent murder, as his life and career hang from a figurative thread (and, in one Harold Lloyd-worthy scene, a surprisingly robust hotel balcony). The film’s strongest impulses, though, are its comedic and atmospheric ones, Franklin throwing Collard’s contrived semantics to the wind and instead indulging in the inescapable pastels of Theo Van De Sande’s cinematography; the furious tempo of Graeme Revell’s Dave Grusinesque score; and one very funny scene that deftly reinvents that old gag about all black people looking alike.