Florida Noir: Out of Time


Like Florida, Out of Time is laid back and easy, at least it starts off that way. We meet Banyan Key Police Chief Matt Lee Whitlock, a smooth Denzel Washington, as he makes his rounds one hot evening in the small coastal town. Relaxing back at the office, he receives a phone call from one Ann Merai Harrison (Sanaa Lathan); there’s an intruder outside her small house, can he come over. At her home, he begins asking a series of questions. We soon realize they are both acting out a coquettish sexual game that ends up with them in bed. The playful sexuality is as hot as the Floridian temperature in the dead heat of summer.

The sleepy easy going atmosphere though hides levels of unrest that are about to rise to the surface. You see, the sultry Ann is married to Chris (Dean Cain), a jealous, wife-beating loser. There’s also a fourth person in the circle, Matt’s wife, more correctly his estranged wife, Alex (Eva Mendes) who is in the process of divorcing him. Alex is also a cop, recently promoted to detective. Matt’s career hit a recent high note with a drug bust that included the seizing of $500,000 in cash which Matt’s still has in a safe for eventual transfer to the DEA.

The slow and easy tempo that has dominated so far though is about to change and it’s going pick up at a non-stop pace that does not let up for the rest of the film. Ann reveals to Matt she is dying from liver and lung cancer. The doctors told her there is little hope except for some experimental treatments which cost a lot of money and offer little hope of success. We also learn that about a year earlier, Ann’s husband purchased a one million dollars insurance policy without telling her. Meanwhile, Chris has been suspecting something is going on between his wife and Matt. Ann manages to changes the beneficiary of the million dollar policy, naming Matt.

Matt begins to dig himself into a hole that in real life would be impossible to survive, but hey, it’s a thriller and the script by Dave Collard, is cunning, not letting up for a moment to make you think if it all makes sense. Without revealing too much, Matt decides to “borrow” the impounded drug money and give it to Ann for her cancer treatment thinking he’ll replace the cash from the insurance money. However, when both Ann and Chris die in a fire, the twist and turns get even hotter for Matt. The DEA decides they want the money now instead of latter. Alex is leading the investigation, and Matt is hanging on, in one scene literally, trying to stay one step ahead of everyone and out of their line of fire. Saying too much more will ruin the fun.

Denzel Washington makes being cool look easy; it comes naturally to him. Unlike so many actors and singers, Denzel doesn’t have to try; he just is cool. And while he may know he’s cool, Denzel never lets it get to the point where he is advertising it. Denzel Washington also happens to be one of the finest actors around today, and that naturally helps.

Director Carl Franklin, and his cinematographer Theo Van de Sante, faithfully capture the heat and atmosphere of Florida. The pace of the film at times feels like a boiling pot ready to explode. The Floridian landscape is as much a character in the movie as is the cast. It was shot in and around Miami, as well as in the small town of Cortez, located South of Tampa. It is  near Bradenton and Sarasota.

Out of Time was the second collaboration between Washington and director Carl Franklin, Their first was the excellent Devil with the Blue Dress On (1995) based on Walter Mosley’s Ezekial “Easy” Rawlins series of mystery novels. One hopes this team will get to work again together.



6 comments on “Florida Noir: Out of Time

  1. A few years ago the hubby referred to Denzel as “the Spencer Tracy of his/our generation”. Sometimes he knows what he’s talking about. This is one of those movies that cements that idea.


  2. I love your attention to this sub-genre Noir–for instance, your review of the oft maligned and over looked Miami Blues is, in my opinion, spot on. Don’t agree with you on this one however. I found the script convoluted and contrived but that’s just me. Really liked Devil with the Blue Dress On though– kind of ‘the cute little sister’ to the gorgeous China Town.


    • John Greco says:

      “Devil” is definitely a much better film. For me, it’s imperfections are at first watch set aside because it is all moving so fast, you don’t think about it (at least I didn’t). Once you stop and think about it, then the script problems rise to the surface.


      • I agree; it’s kind of like Detour–entertaining, but too many holes in the plot. I think Franklin also directed One False Move. Now that’s a remarkable film–a near masterpiece IMHO. What do you think of it? Would like to read your review on it (One False Move). Just a respectful–and perhaps too bold–suggestion.


      • John Greco says:

        I have not seen ONE FALSE MOVE. It’s one of those films that have slipped under my radar. Will have to hunt for it.


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