This potentially interesting thriller is cut short by its own gimmick. Johnny Depp is a mild mannered accountant picked at random by the menacing Mr. Smith (Christopher Walken) and Ms. Jones (Roma Maffia). They kidnap his daughter and force him to assassinate the governor (Marsha Mason), or his daughter will die. The gimmick: The movie takes place in real time, ticking down to the 90 minute deadline when Depp’s daughter will die. Unfortunately, the gimmick is way overdone. The film blatantly shows every clock or watch it can, as if it is daring the audience to verify it is really, truly, running in real time. Yet, with the 90 minute deadline, it is obvious that nothing stunning will happen until the clocks reach that 90 minute mark. Instead of marking the passage of time, the frequent clocks rather read as a countdown till the end of the film. It’s too bad, because without the reminder, Nick of Time could have actually become quite a good film. Depp’s character is appropriately sympathetic (though perhaps a bit too timid for those with action hero tastes), and Walken plays his trademarked villain as only Walken can. Most of the action scenes are thrilling, but they lose their impact and suspense when the omnipresent clocks appear, reminding us that nothing important will happen for a while. The most exciting and energetic portion of the film is actually a dream sequence (unbounded by the clocks, and with some of the film’s few genuine surprises). Then, when the end does finally come, it is treated in a rather formulaic manner, giving no real thrills. The real time gimmick isn’t a complete failure, but its execution in Nick of Time certainly is.
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