*½/**** Image C Sound C Extras C
starring Mario Lopez, Tava Smiley, Carlos Mencia, Ali Landry
screenplay by Scott Duncan & Ned Kerwin
directed by Lorena David
by Walter Chaw A Latin blend of Charlie Sheen's The Chase and Patrick Dempsey's Run, Outta Time is a sometimes-frenetic, pleasantly ludicrous pursuit film that treats logic and continuity like roadkill on the highway of narrative. "Saved by the Bell"'s Mario Lopez is David Morales, a Mexican-American going to school on a soccer scholarship who, after hurting his knee, loses his tuition. In desperate financial straits, David agrees to run untested drugs across the border into Tijuana for shady professor Darabont (John Saxon).
Predictably, things go south, and David finds himself on the run from the cops, the feds, and the Mexican mafia--dire straights softened somewhat by the acquisition of a comely partner by the name of Bella (Ali "The Doritos Girl" Landry). Adding to the hilarity, David's saddled with a little Igloo cooler housing a human heart and a comic-relief best friend (Carlos Mencia) suffering from a greater problem than the others have with the unspeakable screenplay.
Performed with the kind of earnestness most often demonstrated by actors desperate to bluff their way out of an empty hand (save the always-reliable B-vet Saxon), Outta Time does best when it pumps up the retro-cheese soundtrack and ratchets up the kinetics. Lopez does have a dim, earnest quality about him that theoretically grows on one, but Landry is preferable in small, commercial-length doses. Handily, the picture forgets that David has a knee injury when it's time for him to run really fast for a long time or employ his soccer skills in a little kick-socky. The film only really encounters major problems when it slows for long stretches of punchless plot punctuated by a maladroit splitscreen effect and enough robotically-delivered blather to fill half a George Lucas flick.
When all the fireworks are spent and Outta Time settles down into a painful finale involving an evil doctor (played with "Knots Landing" glee by soap veteran Nancy O'Dell) and a final daring rescue that promises to join all threads into a pyrotechnic ball, the seams in this endeavour start to show. What's most disturbing about Outta Time is that at its root it appears to be a grim little Oedipal fable in which a boy casts off his unhealthy attachment to his mother so that he might attract a more suitable mate. The corpse count is unusually--I'm inclined to say "laudably"--high, and a needle-fight sort of gave me the willies, but Outta Time lives and dies by its ability to maintain a satisfying level of action. Regrettably, the picture is too little fun and far too much hapless jibber jabber.
Released on DVD by Artisan in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, Outta Time looks pretty bad this way. Extremely low-budget and shot on a tight 24-day schedule, the film's video quality is grainy, the colours are washed out, and clarity is only passable. A Dolby Digital 5.1 mix underutilizes the rear channels for the most part; dialogue is limited to the centre channel and, in the early going, there are a few volume problems, with the speech being swallowed by the non-descript soundtrack.
A feature commentary with director Lorena David, producer Mark Roberts, and star Lopez technically sounds awful, sounding suspiciously like it was spoken into a metal bucket or recorded in a bathroom. For long stretches, it plays like a Kevin Smith yakker: lots of in-references about the real identities of extras and tongue-baths for the talent. Saxon, in particular, gets the full hero treatment by the trio. There's a nice rapport between the three, in other words, that is nonetheless short on wit, regardless of the quantity of ripostes offered to leaven the proceedings. Not much to be learned here, though in their defense, there's not much going on from which to teach. A nine-minute featurette is the standard B-roll sycophancy, a 12-image photo gallery is every bit as useless as the rest of the disc, and brief cast and crew filmographies will doubtless go unexplored. Originally published: May 20, 2002.
90 minutes; R; 1.85:1 (16x9-enhanced); English DD 5.1, English Dolby Surround; CC; English, Spanish subtitles; DVD-9; Region One; Universal