“One ring to rule them all.” No, this isn’t J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe; it’s a sci-fi B-movie starring Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman. 57 Seconds — not 56, not 58 — is their latest project, about an unlikely duo occupying a futuristic society where pharmaceutical CEOs rule the world and time-traveling jewelry might just save (or corrupt) civilization as we know it. Sound familiar? 57 Seconds has familiar themes that weave together a rather thin plot about exposing the dark truths behind the most powerful men on Earth.
Many fans will remember Josh Hutcherson from the beloved Hunger Games films, The Kids Are All Right, and The Disaster Artist. These are all great movies, and to that end, it seems like 57 Seconds is a bit of step back for the actor. Here he plays Franklin, an investigative journalist and blogger who narrates the tale in your typical expositional fashion, dishing out the facts over some technology-laced opening credits. He mentions Anton Burrell (Freeman), a health-care tech giant, and Sig Thorenson (Greg Germann), a pharmaceutical chief who’s got a grip on the world thanks to his addictive painkillers and more.
Franklin bashes Sig in his online articles, especially since he lost his twin sister to an overdose on Sig’s product, but Franklin’s identity is protected since he writes under an alias. He also wants a chance to meet Anton, so he takes a minimum-wage job at one of Anton’s headquarters to try and sneak his way into a special presentation. Along the way, he meets Jala (a standout Lovie Simone), a fellow employee who shows Franklin the ropes on his first day. Franklin ultimately finds a secretive way into Anton’s highly anticipated presentation, which has a sort of Steve Jobs vibe as he introduces new tech to help the save world.
And thank goodness Franklin snuck in, since he’s the one who saves Anton’s life after an angry civilian storms in with a loaded gun. After taking him down, Franklin stumbles upon a mysterious-looking ring that allows him to travel back in time exactly — you guessed it — 57 seconds. There are some fun moments soon after as we watch Franklin play with the device, helping him get his first date with Jala just right by redoing a bedroom scenario over and over again.
Then his car gets towed, and Franklin takes his nifty new piece of jewelry to a local casino and wins big. All the while, Sig and his right-hand man, Calvert (Sammi Rotibi), have eyes on Franklin and think the casino luck is perhaps courtesy of Anton after Franklin had saved his life. Sig offers Franklin a job to write puff pieces for his brand, which Franklin accepts — but only so he can get inside and ultimately expose Sig’s dark side: Sig knows his painkilling drugs are addictive but sells them anyway.
Meanwhile, Anton stays in touch with Franklin, which comes off as merely a good way to keep Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman on the screen as much as possible — even if these moments don’t exactly move the central plot forward. Sig mentions how he’s developing a new kind of quantum technology that could eliminate future car accidents, thereby making the world a safer place. But before we know it, Franklin is back at Sig’s headquarters, showing off his talents to him and his team without actually revealing what the secret is.
57 Seconds is aided by an occasionally fun soundtrack and a couple little twists and turns along the way regarding just how exactly Franklin’s time-traveling piece of jewelry works. And the sci-fi concept certainly has franchise appeal, if the folks behind the camera were to ever develop a sequel. Unfortunately, this film falls flat, and some low-budget special effects in this modern 21st-century era certainly don’t help. They should’ve asked for more money from Miller Lite, whose beer is plastered across several scenes in the film.
Some plot points make no sense. Franklin seems like a smart guy — wouldn’t he be weary of security personnel at the casino catching on when he kept winning ridiculous sums of money at the roulette table? Also, Sig and his own security team watch Franklin like a hawk at times — why didn’t they notice that odd, futuristic-looking ring he’s wearing on his index finger (of all digits)? They don’t think that’s a bit suspect when Franklin keeps essentially reading people’s minds?
Oh well. 57 Seconds is a bit of everything when it comes to film genres, and it moves pretty quickly thanks to a somewhat upbeat vibe throughout. But at the end of the day, it seems a bit like Freeman and Hutcherson are just cashing paychecks here. And on to the next one…
From The Avenue, 57 Seconds is now in theaters and on digital.