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'The Killing Time' (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 24, 1987

"The Killing Time," all things considered, ought to be called "Killing Time." Or even more accurately, "Counting the Minutes." Or, "On Second Thought Show Me to the Exit."

This pooped, poorly directed action drama pits Kiefer Sutherland, as a vengeful killer, against Beau Bridges, as a deputy in a sleepy California coastal town. Bridges is having an affair with his high school sweetheart, who is planning to kill her ruthless developer husband. Sutherland, posing as a new deputy, has a similar goal in mind. Wires are crossed and tables are turned with plodding predictability.

Bridges heaves into view, picking up litter, patting kids on the head, checking meters. Clearly a man who wouldn't say no to a can of Pringles, he is the picture of bucolic contentment. Plump as a pumpkin -- though still svelter than the sheriff, played by Joe Don Baker -- he is the only thing standing between the citizens of Santa Alba and desperadoes like Sutherland's psycho impostor.

Sutherland quickly insinuates himself into the town's good graces. Odd as he may seem to us viewers, none of the other characters takes notice of his violent streak. Comments like "Any job that lets you carry a gun ... can't be that bad" go by unnoticed. The lovers decide to set him up for the murder, and he decides to double-cross the double-crossers.

With his eyebrows drooping like a basset hound's, Bridges is hard not to like, even as our antihero. But it's even harder to believe that he'd plot a murder, especially for the likes of his former flame, a brittle ninny. Camelia Kath -- who since the filming has married Sutherland -- has her first starring part as this tortured housewife. The character is interesting, but Kath performs it with the spirit of a TV game show prize-stroker.

Baker and Sutherland are the most convincing, though it looks as if Sutherland is determined to be typed as a heavy. He's played bad boys in his last two movies -- the head vampire in "The Lost Boys" and the bully in "Stand By Me." Here, he's compelling, but overdrawn.

It took three writers -- Don Bohlinger, James Nathan and Bruce Franklin Singer -- to doctor the script directed by Rick King. They were after a taut psychological thriller. They achieved a slack seat-squirmer full of pointless scenes and uncomfortable silences, a great poky mess of a movie. Bring an hourglass.

"The Killing Time" contains nudity and violence.

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