Almost in a subversive move, Johnny Depp plays everyday-businessman Gene Watson, who shortly after arriving with his young daughter at an Amtrak station, is hand-picked to assassinate a political candidate (Marsha Mason). Mr. Smith (Christopher Walken) gives him until 1:30, or else his daughter gets it.
The premise is obviously enticing as a thriller and this John Badham (Short Circuit) movie sometimes feels like a 90’s homage to Hitchcock. Whilst that’s probably nothing new and the CGI title sequence screams dated, Depp’s grasp of the ordinary man confronted with peril, as well as the real-time sequence is impressive. Depp’s flustered persona is believable as you are caught up in his terror; you can actually forget he’s an A-lister altogether. It’s possible the choice for Depp to wear glasses for most of the movie was to perpetuate this disassociation. Walken is appropriately vile and is on just the right side of ham too.
The weakest elements of Nick of Time include Depp’s unnecessary voice-flashback episode during one of his numerous moments of anxiety (most of the film’s audience hopefuly aren’t stupid) and the entertaining, yet unbelievable aid he receives from lowly hotel staff, namely Charles S. Dutton (Alien 3). Still, this thrill-ride is generally well-executed and negates any creative licence. An underrated 90s thriller.