Time-travel movies usually involve characters moving backwards or forwards in years so that they can experience a vastly different past or future to their own.
In 57 Seconds, Josh Hutcherson’s Franklin can travel, you guessed it, only 57 seconds into the past. But while you might think he’d be unable to create much chaos by repeating a minute, in a matter of weeks Franklin goes from being a lowly tech blogger to a rich insider at a pharmaceutical company.
Franklin is able to travel back in time after he thwarts the assassination of visionary tech guru Anton Burrell (Morgan Freeman). Backstage after the incident, Franklin finds a mysterious ring on the floor. When he presses the diamond on the ring it transports him back 57 seconds.
At first, Franklin uses the ring to help him on his date with Jala (Lovie Simone), a girl he met while he was waiting to interview Burrell. After his car gets towed away, the desperately poor Franklin goes to a casino where he’s able to amass thousands of dollars in just a few hours by playing the previous roulette numbers.
But Franklin also has his eyes set firmly on revenge. The reason he was trying to interview Burrell was because he wanted his help in exposing Sig Thorensen (Greg Germann), the evil head of the pharmaceutical company responsible for his twin sister’s drug overdose and subsequent death.
After getting close to his nemesis, Franklin’s ability to predict every detail of the immediate future results in him being brought into Thorensen’s inner circle. Franklin sees this as an opportunity to get not just a minor victory over Thorensen, but to instead bring down his whole company. But the longer Franklin stays with the pharmaceutical executive, the closer he gets to him, and the more he uses the ring, Jala becomes concerned that he’s actually addicted to the power of time travel instead.
There are certainly moments where you can see why such a bevy of talented actors were attracted to 57 Seconds. Whenever Franklin is using the ring, there’s an excitement and intrigue about how he’s going to redo the minute. There’s a goofy cheekiness to Hutcherson that allows viewers to be impressed by the character’s rise, without ever getting annoyed by him, too. Plus the mere presence of Freeman is enough to make any cinephile smile – the veteran screen star could make reading the phone book sound profound.
The problem with 57 Seconds, though, is that it’s so poorly shot and thinly plotted that you’re always aware of just how sub-par the film is. It doesn’t even take 57 seconds to realise that the film does not have the budget, script, or direction from Rusty Cundieff to match its premise.
As 57 Seconds gets going, Hutcherson’s nearly intelligible narration provides pointless exposition in a ham-fisted fashion. It then sporadically returns throughout the story whenever it’s verging on getting too complicated. Meanwhile, the motivations for most of the characters are either non-existent or bizarre, there’s zero suspense at moments where it's required, while you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculous plot developments.
The script’s lack of quality is especially surprising considering that Cundieff co-wrote it with Macon Blair, whose previous films I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore and Hold the Dark gathered strong reviews. The writing is so bad that at times it has more in common with a soap opera than a sci-fi thriller starring two bona-fide Hollywood stars.
All of which builds to a pathetic final action sequence, which is then followed by a predicable and lacklustre plot twist and reveal that immediately renders any lingering goodwill for the film moot.
Thankfully, the film’s stellar cast, its entertaining premise, and its swift hour-and-a-half running time are enough to make sure that 57 Seconds isn’t a complete disaster. But you can’t help but wonder how good it might have been if it had a bigger budget, tighter script and better direction.