'Nick of Time'** 1/2

Movie reviews

Rated R"Nick of Time" really lives...

November 22, 1995|By Stephen Hunter 'Money Train' | Stephen Hunter 'Money Train',Knight-Ridder Newspapers

'Nick of Time'

** 1/2 ; Rated R

"Nick of Time" really lives up to its name. Set in real time, it transpires over its own plot's 90 minutes, with Johnny Depp as an innocent businessman who is shanghaied into a conspiracy as existentially pure as can be. His daughter is kidnapped, a gun is put to her head, and he's told that if he doesn't perform a certain act, she'll be executed.

The act: to assassinate the governor of California, played by Marsha Mason.

Christopher Walken plays the head thug and one clever conceit of the film is to turn the conspirators not into sleek, elegant ironists but cop-like bullies of great physical authority. Walken dominates Depp and one can see how he literally, by force of will, blasts him toward the unthinkable. Roma Maffia, as his partner, is equally chilling, as a woman who can soothe a child but always lets you know she'll kill one, too.

The movie has great momentum; I think some of its gambits are a little farfetched, however, as it leaves the ground level of the conspiracy and ventures to take us into its higher echelons where the sleek Peter Strauss and G.D. Spradlin drink wine with pinkies crooked.

It could be cleverer, too; somehow the solution to the problem isn't as elegant as the set-up. And finally -- I hope I give nothing away here -- the money shot, the deconstruction of the bad guy, could have been handled with more pizazz.

Still, it's a gripping piece of work. In its hold, time really flies.

3' R-rated for violence and profanity. **; Rated R

"Money Train" is a crazy, disjointed mess, one that will test the patience of even the most devout fans of Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, whose onscreen chemistry made "White Men Can't Jump" such a hoot. Here, Snipes and Harrelson play foster brothers and New York City cops who, by film's end, are aboard a runaway subway car loaded with transit authority receipts, debating whether to steal the cash.

On its way to that crash-and-flash climax, "Money Train" derails across so many different story tracks you begin to wonder if there was ever an actual script to begin with. There's the brothers' romantic rivalry over their new partner, who seems to flirt equally with both men; there's the hard-line MTA chief, a bulldog of a boss on a permanent power trip; there's the no-nonsense gangster angling to collect Harrelson's $15,000 gambling debt; and there's a psychopath on the loose.

None of it makes much sense, but the movie simply chugs along, figuring if it moves fast enough, no one will notice what a paste-up job it really is.

E9 Rated R for language, violence and sexual situations.

Rene Rodriguez

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