Have you ever spent an entire film's runtime yelling at the characters on screen, wondering how any character can be so incredibly stupid that his each and every move contradicts his character up to that point? You know the kind of films I'm talking about, the ones where you can predict a large portion of what's going to happen, where the only things you don't see coming are the points that make absolutely no sense and exist solely to try to throw you off. There's a reason many of these features end up as direct-to-video or cable features. It's because people don't want to pay to see them.
'Ticking Clock' is just another entry in the category of films that don't deserve (or need) to be finished, yet are oftentimes so absurd that you hang on just to see what kind of inanity happens next. They defy genre, because they can't stick to any one category successfully. They try to be a jack of all trades, instead of being good at one thing and at least having a point, a reason to exist. While not exactly veterans, the film isn't an amateur first time project, as it's helmed by the director of some random 'Stir of Echoes' TV movie, and was written by...oh, that's bad. The writer is responsible for 'Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.' And the film stars Cuba Gooding Jr.. What happened to that guy?! That's right there should be all the warning you need.
April, 2011. Investigative reporter/novelist Lewis Hicks (Gooding Jr.) finds his girlfriend murdered, dissected by a serial killer (Neal McDonough). As Hicks pursues him, the killer vanishes into thin air, but not before leaving behind a journal that details who he's going to kill next. Hicks' story doesn't quite add up to the cops, and soon he finds himself the sole suspect as the body count piles up. There seems to be a link to a 1999 murder, as well as something or other in 2032, but Hicks can't quite figure it out. The police are no help, and are after a man they consider a friend, all the while the devious murderer gets his jollies over and over again.
Look, I could take the easy route, and explain that this poorly made, boring mess of a film was horribly acted, but there are bigger issues afoot. Not even the paycheck actor known as Cuba Gooding Jr. (post-1998) is the biggest problem here, and that's truly saying something, as the man is truly awful. Nearly every single part of this film is convoluted and horribly stupid, to the point that any viewer who has seen a single film or read a single book in their lifetime will call this 101 minute snooze-fest out for its amazingly obvious inconsistencies and flaws in logic that would have ended the film around the five minute mark.
Let's start with the character of Hicks, our protagonist. It's his job to cover killers and criminals, and work with the police. He's written about his experiences doing such, and plans to do so again. So, ask yourself, why is it this character could so stupidly set himself up to be the only suspect in a series of brutal murders by refusing to cooperate with police? Personal vendetta? Considering the idea of "murders of passion," you'd think a man who deals with this kind of thing for a living would know that, gee, he should do everything in his power, from the start, to prove his innocence. But, alas, he's an absolute moron. Hicks keeps the journal he finds, the one that details who will be killed next, and eventually loses it to the killer! Whoops. He manages to (accidentally) keep the two upcoming murder victim names, as well as a swab of clothing stained with blood from the killer, after again being questioned by police, but still refuses to cooperate and let them in. Instead, he wants to look insane. Great way to prove your innocence, right?
So Hicks has a friend (he has lots of convenient friends, you see, all of them in important places that can do him favors. It's one of those lazy writing perks of a character of this sort) test the clothing, and bam, he finds out it's not even invented yet. Even weirder still, he has a fingerprint of the killer, that is linked to a person who couldn't possibly be the killer. Alright, that's when you turn in the evidence, if you haven't already, right? Nope. Instead, Hicks finds the two people who are supposed to die, and tries to save them, instead of, I dunno, trying to get the police to put them into protective custody, which would be even easier if he turned in that pesky evidence known as the journal that lays out the entire plan! So, if you're trying to prove you're innocent, do you really think being within the immediate proximity of the people who are going to be killed right when it happens is a good thing, especially when no one sees the killer? Sounds like he could be a bit of a Tyler Durden, mixed with some John Doe from 'Se7en,' doesn't it? What if the journals were of his creation? It would make his next novel a bit more interesting (hell, what if his next novel was the journal itself?!?!), like he were exposed so much to murders that he wanted to do them himself, and get away with it based off all he has learned about forensic evidence and criminal investigations, right?
Nope. The real truth of the murders is even more ridiculous than what we're initially sort-of spoon fed to assume. I don't want to spoil anything, but....ah screw it, it's time travel. Time. Travel. So now this procedural thriller is a sci-fi procedural. I know, we don't have enough of those, do we?!
'Ticking Clock' fails to do a single thing it sets out to do. It eliminates any tension, by showing the killer before it even shows Hicks. It has the killer hang around long enough to get caught, to create some amazingly ridiculous scenes meant to be action, that are just a farce. It's also hard to miss that almost every shot in Hicks' home is awfully dark and low lit, whereas other scenes are brighter. Gee, what gives with that? Throw in some horrid comic book like super villain banter and one liners from McDonough's magical disappearing killer dude, and there is such a problem with tone that it's impossible to give a damn about anything on screen.
I will give 'Ticking Clock' some points, because it does go a little dark. Not many films have a hero internally debating whether he should murder a child or not, and I found that to be fairly interesting. It sets an awfully low bar from the start, and amazingly goes so low that not even a single cell organism could limbo beneath it. Are there worse films out there? Barely. This is pure mindless trash cinema, full of awful performances, stupid characters who are incredibly frustrating, and a plot twist that is beyond illogical. Just watch any single episode of 'Fringe' or 'The X-Files,' instead. Both are shorter, filled with good tension, action, or humor, are fulfilling, and won't insult you by throwing the most mangled wrench in the cogs.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Ticking Clock' comes to Blu-ray via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on a Region A marked BD50 disc, housed in an Elite-Vortex non-cut-out eco-case. There are too many pre-menu trailers that are not skippable through top menu (a revamped Sony pictures experience Blu-ray promo featuring newer releases, plus trailers for 'Red Hill,' 'Game of Death,' 'Sniper Reloaded,' 'Faster,' and 'Takers'), and they kind of tell the story on what kind of fare you're about to experience: shoddy.
'Ticking Clock' is a frustrating release, because it can go from looking pretty damned awesome to very much the opposite in no time flat. There are moments with superb textures, clothing articles so rich and lifelike that you think you can actually feel their smoothness or coarseness, and asphalt can be startlingly realistic. The intentionally blown out, bleak aesthetic of the film masks some details, and for a while, it isn't that much of a distraction, but after a while the lack of clarity and sharpness can get frustrating. The picture is never deep, with foregrounds and backgrounds both looking a bit less than detailed, with grass blades especially looking quite hideous. Skin tones are entirely affected by lighting, to the point that yellows and oranges start becoming the norm. Throw in noise issues and light artifacting, crushing blacks, some slight ringing, and a few moments of motion blur, as well as a sporadic grain level, and this 1080p transfer is enjoyable until it gets frustrating, and it never looks back.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for 'Ticking Clock' is enjoyable at first, with good separation in the score and some unique sounding lightning strikes, as well as appropriate speaker changes that move with the camera angles. Unfortunately, that's the end of my praise. There's an entire scene with a high pitched scratching sound (the bar sequence) that for the life of me I cannot explain based on the characters in the room. Then there's some random static beneath some lines of dialogue, rear speakers that are forgotten for stretches of time, and room dynamics that are questionable at best, with hollow lines that aren't befitting of the rooms they're supposed to be set in. Start with a whimper, end with a bang. That seems to be the story with every aspect of this release.
The only extra on this release is a Previews tab in the main menu that replays all of the pre-menu trailers.
'Ticking Clock' is an ironic name for this release. Every aspect of it starts out with promise, then quickly the clock reaches zero and the whole thing blows up, destroying anything promising or logical. The film misfires on so many levels that it's almost comical, a tensionless serial killer tale that jumps the shark so thoroughly that it has to be seen to be believed. There is a reason that this one will be quickly devalued to the lowest, cheapest tier of Blu-ray releases, even if less than a handful will get sold and hit the secondhand market. If you have any interest in this release, whatsoever, I advise waiting for it to hit the $4.99 mark. It won't take long.