Nick of Time

Year 1975

Christopher Walken as Mr. Smith
Johnny Depp   as  Gene Watson  
Roma Maffia as Ms. Jones
Charles S. Dutton as Huey
Marsha Mason as Gov. Eleanor Grant
G.D. Spradlin as Mystery Man
Director - John Badham
Screenwriter - Patrick Sheane Duncan

Nick of Time managed to keep up a sense of suspense until the last fifteen or twenty minutes. Then it became Nick o' Time because it became very bland and pedestrian. The plot, a stretch if ever there was one, centers around a Joe Everyman whose daughter is kidnapped. The ransom? Mr. Everyman has to shoot and kill someone was a gun within ninety minutes.

For starters, I don't buy it. Who would do this? Who would randomly select someone from a crowd of people in a train station and task them with assassinating someone? Oh, the talen scout, a Mister Smith (Walken), is crazy but so are the people who would back such a doomed from the start plan. And it's a whole conspiracy so Mr. Smith is not acting alone on this.

What could possibly go wrong?

Who would watch this based on the blurb on the back of the box? The blurb summarizes what I've mentioned but also adds that this "unfolds minute by nail-biting minute." I've seen T-Shirts that were more revealing when unfolding than this movie.

Who would watch it? Anyone interested in seeing Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken share screen time. Johnny Depp is usually underwhelming. I know people love him. But he's just too blasť for me in most roles. I admit that I've never seen Pirates of the Caribbean or any of its sequels, so maybe I'm missing out on the real Johnny Depp. Then again, maybe not.

But when matched up against Christopher Walken, Johnny Depp is a shadow. Oh, his character is supposed to be a milksop named Gene Watson who is pressured into becoming a killer. Depp gets the wimpy part right. But then he's supposed to grow somehow throughout the course of the movie into a revenge seeking murderer. Not happening.

Not too many likable characters in this one. Watson, who just lost his wife and had his little girl kidnapped, is supposed to be a sympathetic character. Thanks to these less than suble machinations, he starts with a surfeit of sympathy. But he quickly spends that coin and his pockets aren't that deep.

Huey (Dutton), a shoeshine guy, and Lynn Watson (Courtney Chase), the kidnapped daughter, come closest to giving you someone to root for. But, you can't cannot connect with them and so you just unemotionally watch their paint-by-numbers portrayals.

The first hour or so is tense because Walken keeps his crazy face on and pops up at the most unexpected times. It works well despite the ludicrous premise and the surrounding cardboard characters.

I've also got to give credit to the fact that Depp's character has a first and a last name. In movies these days, that usually doesn't happen. Not all of the characters have two names. There's Huey, Mr. Smith, and Ms. Jones. And there's one important character who doesn't even have a name. But Depp's character has two. Yay!

You know it's sad when I have to resort to this to give the movie credit for something.

The other thing is that the J.D Spradlin character is evil from the beginning. Any time J.D. Spradlin is in a movie, you can tell by his Oklahoma accent that he's going to be a bad guy. When he was an unknown, sometimes the fact that was working for the wrong side was a twist. But he did it so often that...he's just not that kind of guy to be on the side of things bright and shiny. Congratulations for not trying to portray the J.D. Spradlin character as potentially helpful to the protagonist.

Never a good guy, so don't try.

Up until about an hour or more into the movie, it was enjoyable. Everything seemed to be well done. There were a few leaps of faith required but nothing requiring LSD to believe in.

But then came the ending. Break out the acid, people! It's the only way this makes sense. Watson convinces Huey that he's telling the truth and his daughter is being held in a van. Mr. Smith, thinking Huey is deaf for some inane reason, spills a lot of the details. Now suddenly, the hotel staff where the assassination is to take place are a well oiled machine of counter-tactics and they all willingly assist Huey and Watson.

Runners jump down stairwells without so much as spraining an ankle. Bad guys are electrocuted when pressed against a circuit breaker. People who've never fired a pistol before manage to hit what they're aiming at fifty or more feet away. The old bullet proof vest gag claims another victim. Shady criminals come and go through a police cordon with impunity. Panic forces one man to forget how to close a lavatory stall door. And a movie that is supposed to take place in real-time suddenly loses its ability to adhere to a linear timeline.

The first hour or so? It was tense and suspenseful despite the absurd premise. The last fifteen minutes? Tom and Jerry met Bugs and Elmer Fudd.

There's some profanity and blasphemy. There no nudity. Some bad actors and actresses (Gloria Reuben, I'm thinking of you) don't die soon enough. Chick flick potential? You'd be better off having your girl look at the cover picture of Johnny Depp than have her sit through this with you.

Back to the "Torn and Frayed " list or the main movie list.