Picks and Pans Review: Out of Time

updated 10/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain

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This is one of those suspense films in which the audience is always at least a step ahead of the hero. Which means that despite a strong cast and a colorful Florida setting, Out of Time's tale of a police chief framed for murder is disappointingly familiar stuff. If it weren't for the draw of Washington in the lead, this one could turn up any night on the USA Network.

Matt Whitlock (Washington) is the amiable top cop in Banyan Key, a backwater tropical town. When the married woman (Lathan) with whom he had secretly been having an affair and her abusive husband (Cain, see page 79) both turn up dead and their house is burned down, Whitlock figures it won't take long before suspicions turn his way. It doesn't help that the homicide detective on the case, who's based in nearby Miami, is his soon-to-be ex-wife (Mendes). Can our hero find out what's really going on before his onetime spouse (who's possibly still fond of him) figures out he's Suspect No. 1?

Washington reteams here with director Carl Franklin, with whom he last worked on 1995's underrated Devil in a Blue Dress. It's a star turn for the actor, who serves up a winning smile, action stunts and a lazy sexual magnetism. But he's going through the motions; the script offers few challenges and little on which to build a character. Mendes and Lathan are hot, hot, hot, but that doesn't do much when the movie is naught. (PG-13)

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