In director John Badham's stylish thriller Nick of Time, audiences are given the unique opportunity to watch as the suspenseful story unfolds in "real time". The film, which has often been dismissed by critics as a typical thriller, deserves a second glance. The film's too quickly overlooked and forgotten, which is a shame considering how enjoyable it is to watch.
Starring a terrific cast headed by Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken, Nick of Time is a more character and plot driven thriller than most. Although it's many overt references to Hitchcock films grows tiresome, the film succeeds on many levels, particularly because of the pairing of Depp and Walken.
The story follows accountant Gene Watson as he and his young daughter are put into mortal danger. They are approached by a sinister man, named Mr. Smith, who proposes to blackmail Watson. Mr. Smith says that he will kill Watson's daughter in exactly 75 minutes if Watson doesn't assassinate the Californian governor Eleanor Grant. As Watson struggles with his conscience and fails repeatedly to free himself of his situation, he soon learns that he cannot save both himself and his daughter, while protecting the governor. However, he manages to use his resourcefulness and arranges a meeting with the governor's aide and her secretary. That seems his best bet to avoid committing murder, until it turns out that the people that hired the ever-present Mr. Smith are part of the governor's own cabinet. Racing against the clock, Watson must uncover the source of this assassination conspiracy and save his daughter from the clutches of Mr. Smith and his insidious supporters, but the clock is ticking.
Though the film was poorly received during its initial release, it has since become a modest hit. What makes the film so interesting, from my own perspective, is that it set the template for the television show 24. The entire first season of 24 follows a Counter-Terrorist agent named Jack Bauer as he is blackmailed into assassinating the first black presidential candidate or else his wife and daughter will be murdered. Like Nick of Time, the television show also unfolds in "real time". Each episode, which runs at about 44-47 minutes without commercial interruption, takes place during one hour in the day of Agent Bauer's life.
Certainly Nick of Time is a flawed film, but it does feature some impressive performances. Johnny Depp, who at the time was only playing weird outcast characters, gives perhaps his most underrated performance as the desperate Gene Watson and Christopher Walken is unforgettable as Mr. Smith.
This certainly isn't the best film Depp or Walken have ever done, but its well worth your time and money. Set in real-time, Gene Watson (Johnny Depp) and his young daughter Lynn (Courtney Chase) arrive at the Amtrak station in LA, presumably for a business meeting Watson is scheduled for. Watching the new arrivals are Mr. Smith (Christopher Walken) and Ms. Jones (Roma Maffia from Disclosure), shady characters who are looking for someone at random to murder a woman for them. They … more
Starring Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Roma Maffia, Charles S. Dutton Directed by John Badham Writer: Patrick Sheane Duncan 1995
Product Description The clock is ticking for Johnny Depp in Nick of Time, a twist-filled, race-against-time thriller directed by John Badham (Drop Zone, Saturday Night Fever). And indeed it is a race, filmed in "real time" so that onscreen events unfold minute by nail-biting minute as they would in real life. No sooner does accountant Gene Watson (Depp) arrive at L.A.'s Union station with his six-year-old daughter than he's plunged into a nightmare. Two shadowy strangers (Christopher Walken, Roma Maffia) separate Watson from his little girl, slap a gun into his hand and present a devil's bargain: kill a top government official before she leaves a nearby political rally... or never again see his beloved child.