Remember “Black Sunday,” the 1977 thriller involving a planned terrorist strike against the Super Bowl? “Time Bomb” employs much the same backdrop, though the story occasionally feels more preoccupied with its fictional football game than thwarting the nefarious plot. David Arquette isn’t exactly convincing in this Harrison Ford-like “They’ve got my wife and daughter!” role, leaving a movie that approximates a bloated, worst-ever episode of “24.” If nothing else, credit CBS for having the audacity to greenlight a movie whose title amounts to truth in advertising.
Laboring to sustain a frenetic pace, telepic opens with a terror strike in a sports bar, where patrons are handcuffed to the rail by masked gunmen, forcing Homeland Security agent Michael Bookman (Arquette) and bomb-defusing expert Douglas Campbell (Richard T. Jones) into wisecracking action.
That attack, however, is merely the setup for a larger operation tied to a somewhat ironic gridiron showdown between Washington and New Orleans (haven’t those cities suffered enough?), which Bookman’s wife (Tara Rosling) and kid happen to be attending.
Unknown terrorists want a prisoner released and $100 million or they’re threatening to blow up the stadium and the 65,000 people in it. Moreover, they’ve snagged Bookman’s family, triggering (let’s say it all together now) a race against time to find out who’s behind the scheme and avert tragedy.
Working from a script by Frank Military (of CBS’ “NCIS”), director Stephen Gyllenhaal tries to obscure the movie’s sundry shortcomings through tense music and an inexplicable emphasis on the football game, which unfolds in excruciating detail and virtually real time. Perhaps pic was conceived to run in the fall (I’m sure the NFL would have loved that), but as constructed, it’s as if we’re supposed to care that Washington’s quarterback has undergone knee surgery but is toughing it out (information that’s relayed through announcer voiceover), even as the antiterror team labors outside earshot of the roaring crowd.
Angela Bassett essentially makes an extended cameo as Bookman’s boss, and the protracted finale is somehow both implausible and completely predictable.
“Time Bomb” also revels in all manner of high-tech hardware, including voice- and face-recognition software, as agents use the football production crew’s cameras to pan the crowd for suspects who, once located, are subjected to Bookman’s righteous, ticking-clock interrogation methods. Frankly, as torture tactics go, running the movie might be equally effective.