Real time is all the rage. With Kiefer Sutherland's latest television vehicle, 24, keeping the nation gripped, it is natural to assume that a film which works on a similar premise - the whole story representing 90 minutes of real-time - would be tense and watchable, especially with Johnny Depp in the lead role. However, while it may be a natural assumption, it would also be wrong.

Depp is just your average bloke - Gene Watson - a man who arrives at a train station in LA with his six-year-old daughter, only to be picked at random by two sinister operators, Mr Smith (Christopher Walken) and Ms Jones (Roma Mafia), to carry out the assassination of a campaigning governor (Marsha Mason). In order to secure his help, they snatch his child, threatening to kill her unless he does the dirty deed.

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Although an interesting concept, the plot is full of holes. It becomes evident that the assassination plot is far-reaching, involving untold numbers of those who have contact with the governor, but the motive for her killing is never even hinted at, let alone explained. Also, despite Mr Smith giving Gene a schedule of Governor Grant's day, he still feels the need to dog his trail. This means that he pops up like a malevolent Jimminy Cricket every other scene, begging the question, why doesn't he kill her himself?

The characterisation is dreadful, with only Marsha Mason managing to put some extra dimension into her performance. Walken is more pantomime villain than genuine menace and Depp spends the entire film looking as though he regrets signing up for it. Particularly cringeworthy is the role of Huey (Charles Dutton), a black shoeshine man, a role so cliched it wouldn't look out of place in a Thirties weepie. Every time he speaks to Depp I was put in mind of Police Squad.

Director John Badham may be famous for the slick Seventies success, Saturday Night Fever, but, sad to say, his directorial technique has failed to move with the times. Many of the shots are nothing short of contrived - particularly one of Depp falling (the body double is also terrible) for no apparent reason, other than so they could include it in the trailer - and the use of slo-mo is more akin to a TV movie than a film which received such wide release.

The only positive thing to be said about this foray into real time is that the end result is mercilessly brief.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2002
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Johnny Depp has 90 minutes to save his daughter by shooting a senator.
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Director: John Badham

Writer: Patrick Sheane Duncan

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Courtney Chase, Roma Maffia, Marsha Mason, Charles S Dutton, Gloria Reuben

Year: 1995

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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