Nick of Time

In Nick of Time, a thriller that unfolds (like High Noon) in “real time,” Johnny Depp rides an elevator, and we ride with him; goes to the bathroom, and we accompany him; gets his shoes shined (twice), and we sit with him. Occasionally we cut away from Depp to see what Christopher Walken and Roma Maffia — villains who kidnap Depp’s little daughter to get him to assassinate the governor for him — are doing while Depp is peeing or going up and down. This is all entirely as boring as it sounds. Aside from its time’s-a-wastin’ gimmick (Depp has about 75 minutes to do the deed or his little girl dies, and we experience those 75 minutes along with him), Nick of Time is a standard sub-Hitchcock thing about conspiracies and kindly shoeshine men with wooden legs that come in handy (Charles S. Dutton plays the thankless role here). Viciously impatient and no-nonsense, Walken and Maffia (the heroic attorney from Disclosure) are the only reasons to watch; Depp, making the leap into mainstream “adult” fare after several years of risky roles that didn’t pay off at the box office, gives a novelty performance — look how clean-cut and ordinary he is! — that is perfectly opaque. We can’t begin to identify with him. Another bummer from John Badham, one of the more sadly erratic directors in the business (once capable of Saturday Night Fever, now capable of The Hard Way and Another Stakeout). His time as a respected moviemaker is almost up, if it isn’t already.

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