This is such a nifty flick – it’s basically an inflated B-movie with some low-key A-production values, with journeyman action filmmaker John Badham directing with a plucky sense of verve, and Johnny Depp doing a great “every-man” performance as a regular Joe forced into an extraordinary circumstance. Depp starred as mild-mannered businessman/father who is nabbed at the train station, along with his daughter, by corrupt cops, and is told that he has roughly an hour to kill the Governor of California. If he doesn’t, his daughter gets whacked. It’s that simple, a premise to make Hitchcock smile, and carried out in a slick and theatrically heightened manner to always remind you that you’re watching a movie. Nick of Time is so mid-90’s, and I mean that as a compliment. I can remember seeing this on the big screen, and then watching it 250 times on HBO. Badham and screenwriter Patrick Sheane Duncan did the “real-time” conceit very well here, with the action starting immediately and rarely letting up for 90 minutes. Sinister and cheesy in almost equal measure, this is the sort of disposable entertainment that’s become a rarity on studio slates in recent years.
Christopher Walken was terrifically menacing to the extreme, all bug-eyed crazy and sweaty-desperate; Marsha Mason was fun in a key supporting role; Charles S. Dutton did a great job as the one guy you can trust; and Courtney Chase was fantastic as Depp’s perpetually scared and kidnapped little girl. This movie absolutely revels in child endangerment, and really reminds you how things have changed in Hollywood over the years. Arthur Rubinstein’s sketchy score kept the tension palpable, and the hot-white-light cinematography by Roy Wagner cleverly used numerous POV shots and skewed angles to ratchet up the anxiety; this is a very visual movie in many regards, and he must’ve had a really fun time figuring out how to cover all the action. Frank Morriss and Kevin Stitt’s nimble editing was a lesson in pure economy, never allowing the pace to sag for a moment. Most of the film was shot on location at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I seem to remember a number of films shooting there in the 90’s. Currently streaming on Netflix; it’s lots of silly fun.