Two years ago producer Mark Roberts, director Lorena David and actor Mario Lopez teamed up for a well-made melodrama, "Eastside," in which Lopez played a young man caught working in a chop shop who uses a two-year stretch in Folsom to study the stock market.
Roberts, David and the charismatic Lopez, perhaps best known for starring in the Greg Louganis TV bio and the TV show "Saved by the Bell," now have re-teamed for "Outta Time," a modest but entertaining Hitchcock-style thriller.
Unafraid of improbability and coincidence, writers Ned Kerwin & Scott Duncan pile on nonstop action that keeps up a furious pace without giving the viewer time to ponder its credibility. Lopez's likable David Morales is a soccer whiz who has made it out of a Tijuana slum into an American state university on an athletic scholarship. His attractive widowed mother, Gloriana (Dyana Ortelli), works days as a receptionist in a Tijuana clinic and nights as a bar waitress to help out her son and to maintain a neat, modest home, to which he returns on frequent visits. Despite a breakup with his girlfriend (Tava Smiley), David is definitely on the right track when he's derailed by a knee injury that costs him his scholarship.
Just as he is assimilating this disastrous turn of events, David crosses paths with Jonas Darabont, a former professor at the university who explains that he owns a local biotech lab and needs someone to transport some serum across the border so it can be tested on animals outside the range of California's vigilant animal rights activists.
Played by the always estimable John Saxon, Darabont is most convincing. Yes, what he's asking David to do is illegal, but think of the lives that could be saved through this research. What's more, in the unlikely event that David, who is friendly with the border guards and is never stopped, is caught, the worst that could happen to him is a fine.
Best of all, of course, is that the generous pay for these deliveries will mean David can afford to stay in school.
After agreeing to the plan, David quickly becomes a man on the run, with a bad knee to boot. All the while, various people are in pursuit, corpses are piling up, and there's a potential romance with a gorgeous runaway (Ali Landry) from a rich family.
The filmmakers have done a nifty job in all respects, and Lopez, who manages a relaxed charm and an easy sense of humor in the midst of frantic events, gives further evidence that he's more than ready for bigger films. Landry is lovely and witty, and Nancy O'Dell makes the most amusingly ruthless doctor Harvard's medical school ever produced. Carlos Mencia is warmly endearing as David's staunch best friend. Richard Lynch, who played the good guy in "Eastside," returns here as a ferocious villain.
"Outta Time" benefits strongly from Lisa Wiegand's dynamic camera work.
MPAA rating: R, for language and violence. Times guidelines: some intense scenes.
Mario Lopez...David Morales
John Saxon...Jonas Darabont
Dyana Ortelli...Gloriana Morales
An Artisan Home Entertainment presentation in association with Filmstar Productions and Silverstar Productions. Director Lorena David. Producer Mark Roberts. Co-producer Mario Lopez. Executive producers Larry Crowder, John Powell, David M. Grey. Screenplay by Scott Duncan & Ned Kerwin. Cinematographer Lisa Wiegand. Editor Allan Spencer Wall. Music Scott Gilman. Production designers Devorah Herbert, Cliff Spencer. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
At selected theaters.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times