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Film / Nick of Time

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Nick of Time is a 1995 thriller film directed by John Badham, starring Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken.

A young girl, Lynn Watson (Courtney Chase), is taken hostage by two mysterious people, Mr. Smith (Walken) and Miss Jones (Roma Maffia). Her father, Gene Watson (Depp), is told that he must kill a woman, Eleanor Grant (Marsha Mason), if he wants to get his girl back.

Notable for being filmed in real-time: the movie has a run time of about 90 minutes, and the plot itself unfurls in that same amount of time.

Not to be confused with Nicolas Cage apparently ascending to the God Tiers to survive the destruction of Earth.

This film provides examples of:

  • Arc Words: Numerous phrases revolving around time, regarding either having enough time to do something or running out of it.
  • Assassination Attempt: The protagonist is "recruited" to assassinate Governor Grant by a cabal of disgruntled underlings. If he refuses, or fails, or otherwise disappoints the conspirators, they will kill the protagonist's young daughter in cold blood.
  • Ax-Crazy / Psycho for Hire: Smith. To elaborate, when Eleanor manages to clue into the assassination plot and tries to escape, Smith begins firing into the crowd to get to her, resulting in numerous bystanders getting shot in the process.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Watson's Establishing Character Moment involves his "accidental" take-down of two rollerblading thugs when they are harassing his daughter.
    • Gus, the bellhop, gets another one near the end when he kills one of the conspirators, albeit on accident, by ramming him into an electrical panel with a heavy cart.
  • Bond One-Liner: "Nothing beats a good Wingtip!"
  • Bulletproof Vest: One character finds cause to lament that the vests don't come with sleeves.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Mentioned by Jones about Gulf War, when Smith and her discover they can't blackmail a French couple into doing their bidding, since they are foreigners.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The radios' limited usefulness inside the hotel, and Watson's gun gets used at the end of the film to stop Smith from killing his daughter. Even the dish cart that factors into the final climax gets some screen-time a few scenes earlier.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: If a character is focused on for more than one or two lines, they are guaranteed to become important later on. As the entire movie takes place in the same hotel, you tend to see the same people a lot. Played with in the end, with one background character who had been featured numerous times finally getting to play his a newscaster reporting on the attempted assassination once everything is done.
  • The Chessmaster: Huey seems to know everyone who works in the hotel, and quickly puts together a plot with different staffers helping Watson along the way.
  • Closed Circle: Most of the film takes place in the hotel, over the course of an hour and a half.
  • Clothing Switch: When Watson needs to evade Smith for a while, he and Gus trade clothes, letting him sneak off while Gus sits on the toilet and pretends to be him.
  • Corrupt Cop: Officer Trust, one of Smith's co-conspirators.
  • Creepy Stalker Van: The two villains from Nick of Time kidnap Gene Watson's young daughter, and issue him an ultimatum: assassinate Governor Grant, or little Lynn dies. The villains keep poor Lynn in an unmarked van near the site of the Governor's campaign speech.
  • The Determinator: Smith is very determined to keep Watson from trying to seek outside help, following him everywhere, to the point of seeming Offscreen Teleportation.
  • Dies Wide Open: Krista Brooks, the Governor's aide, after she tries to warn Grant's husband about the assassination plot.
  • Disabled Snarker: Huey is partially deaf and missing part of a leg. He lays on the snark when people frustrate him, but is otherwise outgoing and friendly.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The meek and mild-mannered Watson is trying to make a phone call at the bus station, while a group of punk rollerbladers harass his young daughter. After they refuse to go away after he asks them numerous times, he knocks over a garbage can in their path, sending them crashing to the floor with a deadpan "Oops" and a reminder to his daughter to wear a helmet and knee-pads when rollerskating.
      • It's also this In-Universe; Smith witnesses the above scene and knows that Watson has what's needed to commit the assassination.
    • Smith repeating "Keep your eyes peeled" to Jones: he is in charge and focused.
  • Father's Quest: An interesting example occurs here where both father and daughter are kidnapped, but the former is obligated to kill a woman or else his daughter dies, so he instead makes an improvised plan to save her without becoming a murderer.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Smith is initially professional and polite towards Gene the first time he meets him. He then blackmails Gene with his daughter's life in a very not-so-subtle way revealing the true monster beneath him.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Huey beats one of the bad guys unconscious with his prosthetic leg.
  • The Heavy: Mr. Smith directly antagonizes Gene but he's employed by an unnamed lobbyist, who, despite being the Big Bad, almost never appears while Smith, in contrast confronts the hero and is at the forefront of the kidnapping and assassination.
  • Hope Spot: Watson tries to warn various people about the plot (cab driver, police officer, Huey, the Governor's aide) about the assassination plot, but is foiled at almost every turn (the cabbie doesn't even read the note he gives him before throwing it away, the cop is in on the assassination plot, Huey initially doesn't want anything to do with it, and the aide tries to get help, but is shot dead for her trouble).
  • Idiot Ball: The villains are scarily competent at first, but suddenly when it's convenient for the hero their competence goes down a few notches and they start committing unnecessary blunders that could (and then did) destroy their Evil Plan (like killing the governor's personal assistant without coming up with an explanation for her absence), though it is implied that they did so out of sheer nervousness and desperation. The whole thing is unnecessarily risky, so it's amazing they didn't make more mistakes.
  • I Have Your Wife: The bad guys are holding Watson's daughter hostage, in order to secure his cooperation. They keep showing up to remind him of the fact, just in case he gets any crazy ideas.
  • Imagine Spot: Watson has a shootout where he guns down Smith, the corrupt detective, various other plotters and almost escapes, only to be grabbed by Smith (not dead after all) who throws him off a balcony, before it is revealed to be a dream he had after blacking out due to Smith choking him.
  • Ironic Name: Officer Trust
  • Just Between You and Me: After Eleanor gets shot, her husband gloats about the plan succeeding right in front of her face thinking she's dead. She's not.
  • Large Ham: It's Christopher Walken as a bad guy. What do you think?
  • Leonine Contract: Smith and Jones are holding Watson's daughter hostage. If he doesn't assassinate his target, they kill his daughter. Worth noting, they never promise to let her go afterwards, either.
  • Lost in Transmission: Quite a few characters use handheld radios to communicate with each other, and throughout the entire film, it is demonstrated that the radios have lots of trouble inside the concrete structure of the hotel, with one background character eventually complaining about this problem. Why yes, this does become important later on.
  • Mask of Sanity: Smith always appears as a charming, charismatic and sophisticated man. During the movie's course, expecially when his plan goes up in smoke, he however shows what he truly is: wrathful, psychopatic and murderous.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Huey really is disabled. But he's an amputee, not (completely) deaf as Watson lead Smith to believe.
  • Metal Detector Checkpoint: At one point, Watson has to go through a security checkpoint while carrying a loaded gun. The security guard turns off the his handheld metal detector while wanding Watson, demonstrating that the plot is wider-reaching than it initially appeared.
  • Mexican Standoff: The trope is mentioned by Jones, when she's pointing a gun at Watson's daughter while he's pointing a gun at her.
  • Mobstacle Course: Watson is able to invoke this trope by Firing in the Air a Lot in a crowded banquet hall in order to escape. Several hotel employees aid him by interfering with his pursuers, with one of the villains being accidentally killed by a bellhop in the process.
  • No Name Given: The conspiracy's mastermind is never adressed by his proper name. Even in the credits is simply listed as "Mystery man".
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The lobbyist leaves the action in his assassination plot to his subordinates, while he never gets his hands his hands dirty himself, riding away in a car when his plans are foiled.
  • No, You Hang Up First: Done briefly between Watson and his daughter over Smith's radio, much to Smith's annoyance.
  • Obviously Evil: The first time we see Smith, all dressed in black and sinister-looking, we can deduce he's anything but a good guy.
  • Papa Wolf: It's Johnny Depp, and he's willing to do anything to protect his daughter. Aww.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: When Brendan Grant realizes that his wife is not dead, and that she now knows he tried to have her killed, he just walks away, knowing that it doesn't matter what he does now.
  • Real Time: With multiple shots of nearby clocks to show exactly how much time is passing.
  • Retired Badass: Huey, a medically retired US Army artilleryman turned shoe shiner.
  • The Reveal: Watson opens the envelope to look at the picture of his target. At the same time, some hotel workers unfurl a large re-election banner for Governor Eleanor Grant, who happens to be the woman in the photo.
    Watson: Oh shit.
  • Right on the Tick: Quite a few shots of clocks and watches showing the time as the film progresses.
  • Shock and Awe: The corrupt cop is killed when a bellhop rams him into an electrical panel with a heavy dish cart during the climax.
  • The Sociopath: Smith. While great part of the conspiracy's members are quite unscrupolous people, they at least have some pragmatism and some standards. Smith on the other hand is the worst of all being a Psycho for Hire who goes even beyond his "job" by ruining an innocent man's life and being willed to kill unharmed bystanders (which is very unprofessional considering he has to keep a low profile).
  • Strawman Political: The bad guys are willing to go so far as murder a political opponent.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Brendan Grant, the Governor's husband, is also part of the assassination plot.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: At one point Watson rides in an elevator with the Governor and her bodyguards. It gets more awkward when Smith joins them.
  • Villain Ball: The Governor's husband just has to monologue over her after he thinks she's been shot. And then her eyes snap open as she comes to, and she stares at him in horror as her suspicions are confirmed.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Smith totally losts his composure and flies into an homicidal rage when the Governor's assassination turns into a complete failure.
  • Visual Pun: The whole movie is interspersed with shots of clocks, wristwatches, etc. showing just how much time has passed in the film. During the final confrontation when Watson foils the assassination, we see someone's watch get torn off and then crushed under foot, showing that Watson has stopped the clock.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end of the film, the grey-haired politician departs in his limo just before the police arrive, making it unclear if he will see justice for his part in the conspiracy.
  • Would Hurt a Child: They're serious when they say they'll kill Watson's daughter. Hell, they try to do it out of spite.
  • Worthy Opponent: Smith finally seems to genuinely respect Watson after he shoots Smith to death in the climax.
    Very good, Mr. Watson. I told them I could make a killer out of you.