By Kevin Carr | October 5, 2003

Sometimes a movie doesn’t have to be entirely original to be enjoyable. “Out of Time” is one of these films. Everything about the plot is predictable – from first frame to last. But deep inside the movie is a fun little chase flick.

Matt Lee Whitlock is the chief of police on the small town of Banyan Key, Florida. Having recently separated from his wife Alex (Eva Mendes), he’s having a torrid affair with Anne Merai (Sanaa Lathen), whom he used to date in high school. Anne Merai is married to Chris (Dean Cain), an ex-football player who is left with few career choices after he’s cut from the team. Whitlock discovers that Anne Merai has terminal cancer and needs several hundred thousand to undergo experimental treatments. Conveniently, Whitlock was the arresting officer in a big drug bust and has close to half a million dollars in his custody awaiting pick-up by the D.E.A. You can see where this is going.

With plans to run away with Anne Merai, Whitlock gives her the drug money and tells her to come meet him in the middle of the night. But when Whitlock wakes the next morning, he finds her house burnt to the ground and himself as the prime suspect.

You’ll need a lot is left to suspension of disbelief for this movie. First of all, the Florida Keys can be like small towns in the Midwest. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. In fact, at one point, we see a sign for Banyan Key, which lists its population as just over 1,300 people. And I doubt there’s any outlying suburbs to jack it up even over 1,500.

In a small town like this, the chief of police couldn’t be canoodling with his high school sweetheart (especially during a rocky separation from his wife) without the entire town knowing. In fact, throughout the film, it is implied that Chris knows about the affair. So why is it that no one at the police station brings it up when dead bodies start appearing?

The real reason to see “Out of Time” is not for a great plot. The reason to see it is for what happens in the middle. While the beginning and ending are both predictable as can be, the middle is a clever cat-and-mouse chase between Whitlock and everyone else. It’s fun to see how Whitlock manages to stay one tiny, tiny step ahead of the investigation as he tries to keep himself from being implicated and track down the stolen drug money. This middle had a fresh, fast pace that reminded me of “Catch Me If You Can.” It actually saves the film from being a pedantic, not so thrilling thriller.

Denzel Washington covers the same old territory he has many times before in films like “The Pelican Brief” and “The Siege.” He’s just marking time until his next Oscar nomination (which he surely won’t get for this), but Washington is one of those actors like Jack Nicholson or Christopher Walken. They rarely act out of their comfort zone, but even their stock characters are fun to watch.

Eva Mendes is not particularly compelling as an actor, but she sure is easy on the eyes walking around in her tight skirt and unbuttoned white blouse. I doubt this is a standard look for homicide investigators in the Florida Keys. However, when I die, she’s the one I’d want poking around.

As comic relief, John Billingsley plays Chae the county medical examiner. He’s over the top in many scenes, and more in need of the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” Fab Five than anyone else in recorded history. And he manages to spring Whitlock out of a few too many tight spots just in the nick of time. Chances are, he’ll annoy most people, but I found him pretty funny.

“Out of Time” is not the greatest film of the year, and it will most likely be forgotten until you see it on a Saturday afternoon presentation on USA in about five years. But going up against the current line-up of films out there (like the dreadful “Cold Creek Manor” and “Underworld”), there’s a lot worse ways to blow $6.00 to $9.00.

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