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DVDs I think you should own #2 – Nick Of Time


I never really got into 24. Lots of people I know did. They loved it (and still do) but it never really did it for me. It’s a bit of a shame, as generally I like secret agenty thrillery things but 24 just didn’t quite cut the mustard in my eyes. Some of its defenders like to labour the point that its real time structure made it original and thrilling. They are sadly only half right. While the real time structure does build excitement, it’s far from an original concept. Six years earlier director John Badham (who can be credited with, among others, Saturday Night Fever, Wargames and Short Circuit) directed the largely overlooked Nick Of Time, starring Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken. Do I need a spoiler warning? Probably should. There are spoilers afoot.

Accountant Gene Watson (Depp) has his six year old daughter kidnapped at Union Station in LA by “Mr. Smith” (Walken) and his accomplice Ms. Jones. They offer Gene an ultimatum. Take a pistol from them and assassinate the Governor of California (not Arnie!) or never see his daughter again. He has 90 minutes to accomplish the mission before his window of opportunity closes and the kidnappers follow through on their threat against his daughter. Sound familiar? As the film unfolds Gene has to figure a way out of this mess for him and his daughter but in the process discovers the criminal conspiracy may run a little deeper than he at first thought.

It’s a tense little film full of genuine suspense. As Gene discovers he can’t trust anyone but himself it spirals in tightly paranoid circles towards its conclusion. Here’s where it has one up on 24. Our hero is not a military trained anti terrorism expert with the most advanced technology and a team of crack operatives backing him up. He’s an accountant, a single father, an everyman hero in the truest sense and he is plunged into an environment and a scenario that is completely beyond his life experience. Depp portrays this well, a reminder that he is capable of doing more than just gurning at Tim Burton’s request or doing Keith Richards impersonations. Walken is in fine menacing form as Mr Smith and at no time do you doubt his word that if Gene fails in his appointed task he will make good his threats. Not difficult for someone who can make a recipe for roasting a chicken sound like a threat.

As films go it is far from genius but it is highly entertaining and at the time a rather novel concept. As an experiment in realtime story telling it works. As a thriller it works. As ninety minutes of entertainment it works. Buy it, watch it and astonish your 24 loving friends.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Feexby permalink
    24/01/2011 15:59

    I always think of Badham as a bit of a hack. He’s like Peter Hyams in that you’ll always get a competent movie but with nothing in the way of stylistic flair.

    Having said that though I’ll always love Hyams for Capricorn One, and I’ll always love Badham for his ace Roy Scheider helicopter epic Blue Thunder.

    Wonder if you can get it on DVD.

  2. 24/01/2011 18:33

    I would agree that Badham doesn’t really rise above competent but it’s difficult to seriously fault his films. Genius level perfection they are most certainly not but in most cases they do the job nicely. Nick Of Time is slightly above average but this fact owes a lot to the (at the time) novel concept. It’s also refreshing to see Depp in an actual acting role rather than the panto nonsense he’s been consigned to in recent years by Burton and the Pirates series. And for the record, Blue Thunder is available on both DVD and Blu Ray.

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