Perspiration Point

Sweaty stars and a weak mystery make 'Out of Time' an uneventful experience.

Denzel Washington's latest, the film noir Out of Time, should be re-titled It's Freaking Hot: The Year I Sweat My Ass Off.

This is one of those movies set in the South (Florida, to be exact) where the protagonist (Washington) gets into trouble, commences massive perspiring and runs around a lot. As he gets closer to "the truth," he continues to sweat through his garments, and he has a final confrontation with a mystery baddie during which both proceed to sweat like exploding fire hydrants.

I kept noticing the pit stains because there isn't much else in this mystery to grab your attention. Washington is fine as Florida Sheriff Matt Whitlock, who gets mixed up in a fraud scheme, but the cast surrounding him is pretty weak, and the script fueling the plot is as predictable as an ice cube melting in a deep fryer. This is Washington's second teaming with director Carl Franklin after their Devil in a Blue Dress, and the second pairing isn't nearly as good as the first (although it is much, much wetter).

This is one of those "Whodunit ... not me!" movies where we know the person being framed is innocent, and we watch that framed person run around as a solo detective act trying to solve the crime before the axe falls. Because we know the framed person is innocent, it is imperative that the denouement reveals something that blows the mind as far as villain identity goes, and Out of Time fails miserably on this front. The big surprise revelation is liable to inspire more "Who gives a crap?" rather than "Holy geez, this movie dented my skull!" It ends with a dull thud.

Washington's character is pretty much a scumbag undeserving of a happy ending, yet David Collard's script gives him one. Had the film chosen to deposit him in a ditch somewhere, the ultimate victim for his stupid deeds, it would've had a little going for it in the originality department. As it goes, even the most casual of filmgoers will see the plot revelations coming a mile away.

This is Washington's first film after his so-so directorial debut Antwone Fisher, and he acquits himself nicely in a relatively worthless role. Had anybody else played his part, this puppy would've been your typical, unsatisfying, direct-to-video release. Washington has a proven ability to make bad material worth watching (John Q, Remember the Titans), and this one falls somewhere in the realm of his lesser works.

As Whitlock's soon-to-be ex-wife turned detective, Eva Mendez lacks the grit and toughness that would seem a requirement for such a role. Sanaa Lathan is OK as Whitlock's beleaguered girlfriend, but her character requires a few too many leaps for her abilities to handle. As the requisite wisecracker, John Billingsley is annoying as Chae the medical examiner; his character's only function is to dole out bad humor (we never actually see him practicing his trade). In the "Is He Still Working?" department, former TV Superman Dean Cain is actually quite menacing as Lathan's evil husband, and he has the distinction of being the cast member who sweats the least.

While the film fails on many levels, it is positively atrocious on none, so a viewing of it won't cause any major discomfort. It's just a flat feature that has little impact while watching it, and no impact after exiting the theater. If the notion of Denzel Washington soaking through his shirt gets you all riled up, then by all means, indulge yourself. But don't see Out of Time if you are looking for a mystery with the ability to trick you.

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