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Review: Mark Polish’s spy thriller ‘Against the Clock’ is distinctive, if incomprehensible

Review: Mark Polish’s spy thriller ‘Against the Clock’ is distinctive, if incomprehensible
Dianna Agron and Mark Polish in the thriller "Against The Clock." (Gravitas Ventures)

Mark Polish has written and starred in more than half a dozen movies directed by his twin brother, Michael, touching on a variety of genres, all projecting a stubbornly oddball independent spirit. The Polish brothers have often fallen more on the David Lynch and austere Eastern European art-cinema side of low-budget filmmaking, rather than aiming for cheap thrills or crowd-pleasing dramedy.

For his solo debut as a writer-director, Mark Polish has made his own skewed version of a spy thriller. “Against the Clock” (known as “Headlock” when it was first completed, roughly three years ago) shifts unpredictably among realities, telling a story that doesn’t make a lot of sense but that is often visually arresting.

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Polish himself appears throughout as CIA agent Kelley Chandler, who’s carrying out an ongoing mission inside his own head, while lying comatose on a hospital bed. Dianna Agron plays his wife, Tess, pushing to get answers from the agency’s director (Andy Garcia) about what’s really going on.

Questionable aesthetic choices abound in “Against the Clock,” from Garcia’s exaggerated, fluctuating accent (sort of a cross between Foghorn Leghorn and Ben Gazzara), to Polish’s overuse of computer-generated backdrops to slip his characters into new settings, almost on a whim.

But while this movie is pretty incomprehensible, it’s at least memorable. Most straight-to-VOD action-adventures are interchangeable. Only “Against the Clock” has the filmmaker-star trapped in a dangerous mind-scape, wrestling with a beast composed of black static.

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‘Against the Clock’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Playing: Galaxy Mission Grove, Riverside; also on VOD

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