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‘Don’t Let Go’: Too many hangups spoil a promising, time-bending thriller

The movie takes its premise — a cop getting calls from his recently murdered niece — to illogical, laughable extremes.

Detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) watches over his teenage niece, Ashley (Storm Reid), in “Don’t Let Go.”
Blumhouse Tilt

As with any time travel movie in the history of ever, “Don’t Let Go” hangs its hat on our willingness to accept the premise and forgive certain wrinkles without asking too many questions.

I’m good with that. I mean, I’m still excited about the next “Terminator” movie, even though the timeline of that franchise makes NO sense at this point.

But even accepting the increasingly dizzying level of logic-defying, mind-effing, increasingly convoluted time-bending developments in the entertainingly bad (but still bad) “Don’t Let Go,” I found myself wondering why and how, as in …

(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

• If you were receiving a series of phone calls from someone who had recently been murdered and buried, why wouldn’t you share your Call History with others, and maybe put the caller on speaker so you’d have ear-witnesses to this phenomenon?

• Why are there literally no people on the streets of Los Angeles in the middle of the day, as a girl on her bike screams in terror while she frantically pedals away from a psycho killer with a shotgun?

• How can a movie make it so obvious to everyone (except our hero) who the bad guys are, especially after said bad guys set one of the most insanely transparent traps in modern movie history?

• Why does our main character rely on snail mail and print newspapers to figure out the date, as if he’s time-traveling alongside Marty McFly?

Filmed with brutally blunt (and occasionally effective) style by writer-director Jacob Estes and featuring some admirably all-in and really sweat-soaked performances from the talented cast, “Don’t Let Go” gets off to a crackling start, but soon becomes one of those movies where you laugh even when you’re not supposed to laugh, because come ON.

The screen-commanding David Oyelowo (“Selma,” “Lincoln”) plays veteran LAPD homicide detective Jack Radcliff, who over the years has become a father/hero figure to his teenage niece, Ashley (Storm Reid), because her father (Bryan Tyree Henry), a former drug dealer with a history of mental illness who doesn’t always take his medication, can be unreliable to say the least.

When Ashley’s parents forget to pick her up from the movies, she calls Uncle Jack. When Ashley just wants to talk, she calls Uncle Jack. (She’s a bright and sunny and creative and wonderful kid, but she seems to have no friends, no social life, and spends nearly all of her time at home, in her room, often on the phone with … good ol’ Uncle Jack.)

One night, Jack gets a call, and through the static and the bad connection, he hears Ashley’s voice.

Normally that wouldn’t be unusual but seeing as how the call takes place a few days after Ashley and her parents were murdered in their home — yeah, that’s pretty weird all right.

Okay. REALLY weird.

As the calls continue and service from the great beyond or something gets better, Jack uses his cop instincts to piece together a string of verbal clues that allow him to ascertain Ashley is somehow calling from about two weeks ago, prior to the murders. So while they can communicate on the phone, he can’t see her and she can’t see him because they’re in different spots on the time-space continuum. (Imagine the extra expense for roaming fees not included in your monthly plan.)

Mykelti Williamson is Jack’s partner and best friend Bobby, while Alfred Molina is their superior officer and Byron Mann is an internal affairs investigator who suspects (without any real reason) Jack might just be responsible for the murders. (You got me, says Jack, his voice dripping with sarcasm. I killed ’em all. Even the dog. OK Jack, we know you didn’t do it — but you’re not helping matters.)

Oyelowo delivers a fierce and focused performance as Jack, who isn’t the best detective in the world but IS ferociously determined to dive deep into the rabbit hole if it means there’s even a sliver of a chance he can somehow save Ashley from her fate. Storm Reid (“A Wrinkle in Time,” “Euphoria”) continues to build a resume of impressive and natural onscreen work; she is destined for a long career.

The more time the movie spends on the crime thriller mystery (which ain’t much of a mystery), the less time is devoted to the mechanics of the time-travel element or any discussion of the consequences even if Jack does manage to work with Ashley to undo certain events.

Like Jack, we’d like to go back in time, that’s for sure. Maybe we could return to about the 30-minute mark of this movie and see if there’s a better path to take from there.