Film Reviews:

Nick of Time

(John Badham, US, 1995)

Before it opened here in the UK, I remember well the excellent trailer for Nick of Time. It was everything a good trailer should be. It made the film look terrific, didn't give too much of the plot away and left you wanting more. I've always had a relatively soft spot for Hollywood workhorse Badham, and here he has a contemporary go at the Hitchcockian thriller. The pitch to studio executives on this one must have been a breeze: "Nice dad's daughter is kidnapped by political terrorists who threaten to kill her unless he assassinates a potential Presidential candidate for them. I'm seeing Johnny Depp at the nice dad and Christopher Walken as the evil terrorist guy. Whadda ya say?".

Recalling Hitchcock's Rope which happened (and was shot) in real real time, Nick of Time supposedly follows suit but uses standard filmmaking techniques rather than stick rigidly to the external, real world clock. Nevertheless, the approach does sometimes add effectively to the tension, but when Badham (like most other directors) takes liberties with time-stretching it notices more here than it would normally and that tension is undermined. The unsubtle post production dubbing is intrusive and distracting at times, but there is an unusual use of sound to heighten Gene Watson's predicament. Badham's distinctive, crisp visual style and the atmosphere-enhancing editing lend themselves perfectly to the subject matter. The performances are good across the board, and although Depp's character is a bit too annoyingly 'limp' at times, Courtney Chase as his daughter is impressively non-irritating. It should come as little surprise that Walken takes the performance accolades, turning in a suitably nasty portrayal of a relentless and ruthlessly brutal bad guy.

Rob Dyer

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