So, here’s a dilemma for you, viewers: Would you rather have a bland but functional movie or a disastrous but inventive one? The former is more watchable, certainly, and will deliver its low-ceiling entertainment competently, but you’ll also likely forget about it as soon as it’s over. The latter might not work, but at least it tried to do something different and might manage to stick with you for a little while after it ends.
In case you haven’t already guessed, Against the Clock is the latter. It’s a mess of a movie, one with constantly jarring editing, a plot that is nearly incomprehensible in its current form, and some of the most emotionless acting you will see all year, but sometimes it’ll do something that makes you appreciate what it was attempting. That doesn’t make the finished product any better or easier to digest, but it does give you some respect for the people who made it. At least they were trying.
To answer my dilemma from earlier, I think it depends on the audience. Critics and film pundits watch so many movies over the course of the year that it’s the ones that are significantly different that tend to stand out, regardless of quality, and are likely preferable. But for the average moviegoer, the safer, blander option is what they’ll want to go for. “Let me see [actor] foil [other actor’s] evil plot and I’ll go home happy,” since they don’t see it all unfold the same way dozens of times over the span of a year.
If that all sounds like a bit of stalling before getting to Against the Clock, well, congratulations to you, you smart person, you. The movie is a mess, one without a ton of content to talk about beyond the words “almost none of it works.” It’s about the government trying to extract information from the mind of a CIA agent, Kelley (Mark Polish, who also wrote and directed), who gets hurt during a mission and finds himself in a coma. His wife, Tess (Dianna Agron), wants to stop them from extracting that information, knowing that the methods they will use will kill him—even though he’s effectively dead already and has a slim chance of ever coming out of the coma.
But, it’s a movie, so that slim chance is much closer to 100% than it should be. We follow Kelley in his own head as he hallucinates himself in various locales as he tries to “escape” the coma, while also watching Tess argue with government employees, led by a what-are-you-doing-here Andy Garcia. It doesn’t make much sense, the editing is all over the place, most of the actors don’t seem to care, but there’s an occasional visual flourish or inventive idea that makes you think that, hey, there might have once been something here.
That doesn’t make Against the Clock good, though, and the film we have on display here is messy and tough to get through. It’s a lot of jargon that doesn’t go anywhere, unnecessary whiplash editing, and wasted potential. If there’s an audience for this, it’s those people who wanted a less comprehensible Lucy, but without any of the cool superpowers. That’s about the best way I can describe it to you.
Conclusion: Against the Clock is a bad, nearly incomprehensible movie with just enough creativity to make you think it had potential.
Recommendation: The only reason to watch Against the Clock is if you liked Lucy but wanted a worse version that also doesn’t have superpowers.