Hollywood in past decade wasn't known for experimenting, especially not in films that were supposed to be major studio releases. However, there were some instances of Hollywood films that could be described as "experimental". Nick of Time, 1995 thriller directed by John Badham, uses "clever" plot gimmick that would later be used in popular TV show 24.
Protagonist of the film is Gene Watson (played by Johnny Depp), accountant who arrives at Los Angeles train station accompanied with his daughter Lynn (Courtney Chase). Because of his ordinary looks he is picked by two individuals with sinister intentions – Mr. Smith (played by Christopher Walken) and Ms. Jones (played by Roma Maffia). Pretending to be policemen, they kidnap Lynn and confront Watson with simple choice – do exactly what he is told or his daughter would die. He is given a gun, six bullets, name tag and task of assassinating Eleanor Grant (played by Marsha Mason), governor of California currently staying at one of Los Angeles hotels. He must do it in less than 80 minutes and Mr. Smith occasionally drops by in order to prevent him from alerting authorities. Watson must quickly find some way out of this impossible situation and along the way he is experiencing many unpleasant surprises.
Nick of Time is based on simple concept of "real time thriller" – all the events on the screen are set in the time frame that corresponds with film's running time. This concept is intriguing, but it also requires more film making skill than ordinary thrillers. Film makers must compress characterisation and fill the film with non-stop action and not sacrifice credibility or pace in the process. John Badham, director known for some fine action films, completes that task very well, but his efforts are almost ruined by huge plot holes in Patrick Sheane Duncan's script - murder conspiracy presented in the film is so far-reaching that it really doesn't need randomly selected and potentially dangerous trigger man. On the other hand, Johnny Depp shows that he can handle action roles quite well, while Christopher Walken eats another role of villain for breakfast. As a result, Nick of Time is mostly satisfying film experience, as long as the audience remembers that it is more of an experiment rather than film by itself.
RATING: 5/10 (++)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews on April 10th 2003)
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