This one's a stinker, a case of "I watch it so you don't have to," reviewed for dvdsnapshot.com!
Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (1996, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Jerry Maguire) stars as Lewis Hicks , a crime journalist specializing in brutal murders. When he discovers the mutilated body of his new girlfriend and comes into the possession of a gruesome journal revealing the serial killer's intended victims, he must find a way to prevent the horrific slayings before time runs out in this taut, psychological thriller in the tradition of The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en.
We open with a flashback to 1999 and Neal McDonough coddling a crying baby, cupping it's hands with his bloody hands at the sight of a very bloody murder. An image that disturbs on a surprisingly primal level. It's the most poetic image in the good looking Ticking Clock.
Then we hop to 2011, with Cuba Gooding Jr., playing a reporter drowning his sorrows in his bourbon. He's got a strained job, an estranged family, and a really-too-hot-for-him girlfriend, pretty much the stereotype of "hard boiled reporter." When the new girl runs into McDonough, in all his creepy, dead-eyed paleness, we know she's not long for this world or film, because he has a book that says so. It's a tight, screenwriting textbook Act One setup.
From there, we enter the chase. Gooding finds the book that dictates all the murders, with names, dates, and in some cases, helpful-yet-grisly illustrations. He has to hunt McDonough, keeping neck and neck with his pursuit of potential victims, with the cops he's written harsh pieces about on his tail. Of course he must prove his innocence using every CSI TV trick he can think of before the cops pin it all on him. It's the structure of a thousand other crime thrillers, except that the cops are after him because he's stupidly doing everything he possibly can to make himself look guilty. Showing up at crime scenes, handling evidence, REAL killers do less to look guilty when they kill people. Then at the half-way mark there's a Sci-Fi twist that makes the plot spin out into actually annoying the viewer. This movie frankly isn't good enough to be forgiven a genre-shift the audience isn't prepared for, much less a villain who's motive is pure and simple petulance.
Gooding's preternaturally youthful face is starting to succumb slightly to age. A tired weariness and coarsening of the features serves him well. He finally looks like a grownup, which tempers the more cocksure, trademark dimensions of his performances. McDonough, who's presence will always keep him in the "creepy" column regardless of his talents, keeps popping up like an exposition-spouting bogeyman. If we never see the "he's behind you" reveal again, it'll be too soon. For all their considerable acting talent, neither can save some cliched dialogue that, even for being in "thriller soup," stands out like spoiled meat.
The frequent date stamps that show up throughout the film are oddly jarring, even if explained to be integral to a date-specific plot (part of the aversion may come from their being three months in the future from this writing). Things never recover once the bad child actor shows up, but at that point kick back and "enjoy" as the last 40 minutes spiral into an opposite direction: pure ridiculous.
Audio and Video:
Ticking Clock comes in delicious 1080p High Definition and in the 1.78:1 Widescreen format. The picture is terrific and mostly crisp. Only in pans and some lighting does it reveal it's shot-on-HD-video roots. One scene with some CGI'd rain really looks cheap considering the rest of the film is so workmanlike and clean. The colors are muted and the cinematography is nothing special. Audio is also clear, though the score tends to swell up too sweetly in places. Not being able to skip over the trailers at the beginning of the disc and get right to the menu this late in the Blu-ray game is unacceptable.
- English, English SDH, and French subtitles
- English and French 5.1 DTS-HD audio
- There's also the BD-Live feature, but unfortunately this reviewer just got his machine and hasn't rewired the house to hook it up to the Internet yet.
Is it Se7en? Is it The Terminator? What it isn't is "very good." Ticking Clock is a soup of a hundred thriller cliches blended up and garnished with a dash of horror movie cliche and a side of lousy dialogue. If you like the leads, it's worth a spin. Otherwise, this Sci-Fi/Thriller mash up is a pass.