A hit and run, a drop and run, and a severed penis are just part of a very bad night in the usually quiet little town of Middleton. It’s a place where the sidewalks roll up at 9pm, but tonight there’s plenty of mischief afoot, all of it converging, for better or worse, at the eponymous time of 11:14. It’s a tidy little tale with several different storylines playing out in several different ways, with slick twists as the point of view changes things for each of the players as little details, such as who is on the other end of a phone conversation, or how a bowling ball got where it is, are revealed.
Starting small, a body drops onto a car, startling the driver, Jack (perennially boyish Henry Thomas) who was engrossed by the conversation he’s having on his cell phone, assuring the person to whom he’s speaking that he’s not drunk, though there’s an almost empty liquor bottle on the seat next to him. Scared and over legal limit as far as alcohol in his bloodstream, he panics and then does the wrong thing. Meanwhile, in another part of town, a mother (Barbara Hershey) gets the call that her daughter has been fatally run over, a father (Patrick Swayze) is trying to cover up a crime with less that stellar help from his dog, two convenience store clerks (Shawn Hatosy and Hilary Swank, who sports bodacious braces) are driven and drive themselves to desperate measures, three kids learn a memorable lesson about pulling pranks, and a girl (Rachael Leigh Cook) with more than sex on her mind decides to take life by the short hairs in the local cemetery.
Writer/director Greg Marcks takes a languid, but not lackadaisical approach. There are crafty tracking shots and a wicked way with playing on audience assumptions in meticulous preparation for turning them on their heads. The writing is crisp and spare with flashes of wit appropriate to the growing feelings of desperation on everyone’s part, feelings played to the hilt, but never over the top by the first-rate cast. He ties things up neatly with a flourish, revealing everything as events intersect and, seemingly, at the most importune times. If virtue doesn’t triumph outright, frailty is smacked down and evil, in the person of a deeply Machiavellian character, is quashed in a most satisfying fashion.
11:14 is a classic a shaggy dog story, the kind that you know better than to believe, but that you can’t help but be swept you along by as it takes itself just seriously enough to keep things moving with an effervescent sleight of hand.