Producers: Julianne Ulrich and Brian Ulrich   Director: Brian Ulrich   Screenplay: Brian Ulrich   Cast: Robert Palmer Watkins, Thomas Wilson Brown, Deborah Lee Smith, Roy Huang, Gina Hiraizumi, Holly Hawkins, Clint Jong, John Rozelle, Stacey Hinnen and Jay Pennick   Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Grade: D+

It seems to be a year for time-twisting movies, first ”Tenet” and now “Last Three Days.”  Of course Brian Ulrich’s threadbare effort is on a much smaller scale than Christopher Nolan’s big-budget extravaganza; the total cost probably was about a tenth of the catering expenses on the Warner Brothers behemoth.

What the two movies share is a considerable degree of narrative confusion.  “Last Three Days” begins conventionally enough—indeed, too much so, with a brief bloody teaser that’s repeated later on in the action leading into a long prologue recounting the cute college meeting of Jack (Robert Palmer Watkins) and Beth (Deborah Lee Smith).  (Both look rather too old to be college students, but no big deal.)  They both like to study under the shade of the same tree, and bicker which should have the pleasure.  They both also appreciate C.S. Lewis’ disquisition on the various kinds of love, which of course points to their falling in one of them.  And he proposes.

Skip ahead seven years and their marriage has hit a rough patch.  Beth works in a hospital alongside her mother (Holly Hawkins).  Jack is a cop just made detective who’s trying to prove himself on the narcotics squad, which keeps him away from home a lot, to his wife’s distress.  He even misses their anniversary dinner. 

Instead he spends most of his time with the guys on the squad, a rowdy bunch, and particularly his veteran partner Dave (Thomas Wilson Brown).  Dave, one of those rebel lawmen who break all the rules, wants to worm his way into a Japanese drug gang that’s laying down roots in the city with a new product, and drags Jack into meetings with its slinky boss (Gina Hiraizumi) and her chief enforcer (Roy Huang), telling him it’s the route to bringing the gang down.  But In the process Jack is slipped a bit of the drug himself. 

That’s when the time-shifts kick in.  Jack crawls home and goes to bed, and when he awakens he finds that Dave has been killed and Beth kidnapped.  Not only that, but he’s lost a full three days out of his life and has to scramble to save Beth and find out what happened to Dave, before he’s taken in.   (Cue that opening teaser again.)  

What follows is that Jack relives bits and pieces of the time he’s forgotten, trying to fix what was broken during that lost weekend.  His watch and phone—which is broken at one point but appears in pristine shape at other moments—provide a means of situating things, at least approximately, but the way the pieces fit together is only gradually revealed as the fights, gun battles, double-crosses and close shaves accumulate.  There are flashbacks to the college years, too, which we really don’t need to remind us of the undying love Jack and Beth are supposed to have.

At one point Jack visits his mother-in-law in the hospital in “present” time to ask whether drugs can alter time.  She replies that they can change the perception of time, but not its real passage—a scientific answer of doubtful accuracy in this case.

It will come as little surprise that Jack eventually works through the morass of accumulated data and in some cases uses his knowledge of the “future” to save the day—or one of them.  One could say that love conquers all,

If this were a Nolan movie, a viewer might be inclined to rerun it and attempt to fit the pieces together, but Ulrich’s script isn’t clever enough to be worth the effort to figure out the fractured narrative, and it’s unlikely the picture’s plot would emerge clearly anyway.  Jack and Beth, the characters we’re supposed to care about, are a bland, uninteresting pair, and woodenly played by Watkins and Smith.  Brown is a bit more convincing as scruffy Dave, but still just a caricature from a typically mediocre cop show on the tube.  The supporting cast offer pretty stilted performances.

On the other hand, the craft contributions aren’t bad for a movie made on a tight budget.  Megan Mead’s production design is just serviceable, but Chris James Haggerty’s lensing is fairly sharp, while Hannah Parrott’s score tries hard to generate tension.  That the editing by Blake Kliewer, Natalie Comstock and Ulrich is jerky was probably inevitable given the plot, but it might have been sharper in the long first act, which really drags. 

It’s just best to forget “Last Three Days” the way the protagonist does.  And you don’t need a drug to do it.