Ticking Clock (2010)

Ticking ClockReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Neal McDonough, Austin Abrams, Yancey Arias, Dane Rhodes, Nicki Aycox

Directed by Ernie Barbarash

Look on DVD shelves, and you’ll see a lot of stars you used to pay money to see in the theater. It’s understandable how some of them find their careers relegated to the doldrums of low budget direct-to-DVD cinema. Action heroes get old. Some once A-list stars have personal issues or displayed such unprofessional behavior in the past that Hollywood no longer wants to hire them. Sometimes a once flourishing career is sunk by a series of very bad career choices.

The latter is my guess to explain what the hell happened to Cuba Gooding Jr. The guy reaches the pinnacle of his career winning an Oscar and what does he follow that up with?

Chill Factor

Boat Trip

Snow Dogs


Daddy Day Camp

The producers of those movies may have shown him the money. Too bad his agent didn’t show him any better scripts. Too bad his agent is still not showing him better scripts. The latest in his string of mediocre DVD movies is Ticking Clock from the director of Cube Zero and one of the writers of Ang Lee’s Hulk.

A very old looking Cuba Gooding Jr. is cast as real-crime journalist Lewis Hicks, soon to find himself the prime suspect in a series of murders. So much of this tale is a cliché-a-thon. The not-quite-divorced reporter whose current girlfriend just happened to have a public spat with him hours before being gruesomely murdered, his best friend a cop who’ll assist him with his own investigation, and lest we forget the cop in charge of investigating the murders who the reporter once wrote something disparaging about and, naturally, is so happy to consider the reporter the one and only prime suspect that he’ll seemingly forget to perform police work 101.

Hicks chases the killer (Neal McDonough) on foot only to get beaten up before the guy disappears into thin air after whipping out a strange-looking pocket watch. A book also fell out of the killer’s trenchcoat pocket during their brief back alley scuffle. Hicks will easily find this book hours later when he goes back to the alley where they fought. That lead investigator with a chip on his shoulder never bothers to send anyone to investigate Hicks’ claims of chasing and fighting with the real killer. In fact, not once while getting Hicks’ side of the story does Detective Vendetta ever ask for a description of the guy Hicks claims to have fought with. It won’t be until after Hicks’ second encounter with the killer that the police finally bother to send in a sketch artist. Later, the killer will show up at the police station claiming to be Hicks’ attorney and not a single cop on the case will ever notice that this man looks identical to the face the sketch artist drew.

Hicks isn’t all the bright either. As he sets out to stop this serial killer, he will constantly make precisely the wrong move to guarantee he remains the prime suspect, whether it be ingratiating himself into the lives of future victims right before they got killed or making certain to find dumb ways to potentially incriminate himself at murder scenes. Yeah, this is one of those movies.

The twist to Ticking Clock is that scrapbook the killer dropped reads like a Death Note by way of Patrick Bateman. Names, dates, who this mysterious serial killer plans to kill next and when in the near future he intends to do it. Of course Hicks doesn’t turn this bizarre book over to the cops right away, giving the killer time to steal it back, naturally, but he does jot down some of the names and dates. Much of the movie, way too much of the movie, is Hicks investigating and interviewing, little of which makes for compelling viewing.

That investigation leads to an angry young boy (newcomer Austin Abrams, more menacingly intense at times than McDonough) living in an orphanage whom the killer has been murdering on behalf of since he was a baby. Unfortunately, for a movie that’s all about surprising us with a big reveal, the killer’s connection to this boy and how he’s able to operate the way he does becomes so obvious early on it’s almost comical how long it takes anyone else to figure it out. The script is not exactly subtle with any of the hints leading to this big reveal. When Cuba finally shouts “I figured it out,” I wanted to yell back at my TV screen, “I figured it out 45 minutes ago!”

It’s not a bad twist, actually. The twist ending, however… Without delving into spoiler territory, the ending is one of the worst instances of deus ex machina I’ve ever seen. The outcome is so insulting even if you buy into how it all goes down there is absolutely no justifying how any of it would have led to the very last scene involving the reappearance of two characters that only appeared very briefly much earlier and had no ties whatsoever to the killer. There is no polite way of describing this ending other than to call it total bullshit.

Ticking Clock was already a fairly iffy serial killer thriller with a few decent moments and an intriguing but otherwise underdeveloped conceit behind its killer’s modus operandi; the insulting ending left me wishing I could have turned the clock back and gotten those 100 minutes back.

2 out of 5

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