The movie opens outside a rundown suburban house. Inside, a woman is seen viciously murdered and partially dissected in the bath tub. As the killer, Keech (Neal McDonough), washes his hands, a baby starts to cry. Keech approaches the baby. Despite the savagery of his attack on the woman he is surprisingly gentle with the baby, by comforting him and saying, “she can't hurt you anymore”.
The movie jumps forward 11 years to April 17, 2011. Investigative reporter Lewis Hicks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is struggling with a failing marriage with his wife Gina (Danielle Nicolet); a dubious relationship with short time girlfriend, District Attorney Felicia Carson (Veronica Berry) and a slumping career. When Hicks pays a surprise visit to Felicia she becomes upset when she sees he is still wearing his wedding band. She tells him she is ending the relationship due to his unwillingness to make a commitment.
Later that day, Keech attacks Felicia in her home, expressing anger over a case she was involved in concerning a child being abused. When Felicia asks Keech if he is the boy's father, he replies "No, I am his guardian angel," before murdering her. Lewis arrives at Felicia's home but she is already dead and partially dissected similar to the woman in the opening scene. Lewis spots the killer and chases him into an alley where they fight. Lewis is knocked down but the killer drops a book.
The killer is seen checking a pocket watch then disappears. Lewis finds the book, which he discovers to be the killer's journal. However, Lewis takes the journal home and reads about Felicia's killing, as well as 2 more murders that the killer plans within the next 72 hours. He writes the other two names down, but the killer arrives inexplicably at his home and takes the journal back as well as the sheet of paper with the other two names.
Lewis tries to explain to the police investigating Felicia's murder, but the lead detective (played by Yancey Arias) doesn't believe him and actually suspects Lewis of the killing. Lewis discovers that he can read the names of the other two women due to the impression left by the pen on the second sheet. He tracks down the second woman: a school teacher named Vicki Ihling (Adrianne Frost). He wants to keep an eye on her and pretends to ask her for a date, but she changes her mind instead going to a local bar. At the bar she is approached by Keech.
As they make small talk she tells him she is a teacher, he states he knows one of her former students, an orphan boy that was returned to a boys' home after a teacher at the school reported him for abusing a stray cat. Vicki becomes nervous when she realizes she is the teacher that made the report and excuses herself to the restroom. In the restroom she is attacked by Keech who angrilly tells her "it was a just mangy little stray". Lewis is able to trace Vicki to the bar but again arrives too late, finding her murdered also. When Lewis tries to catch Keech, he disappears out of the window.
The police still doubt his story about the killer, Lewis' only evidence is a small piece of the killer's coat torn off during the earlier fight and a bloody fingerprint on a newspaper clipping. He sends both to a friend at a local crime lab. When he follows up she tells him the preliminary results from the DNA test on the blood only show one result. An 11-year-old orphan living in a local boys' home. She also shows him that the fabric of the coat reacts to heat, a quality she has never seen before in a fabric.
Believing that the killer may be a relative of the boy, Lewis goes to the home and introduces himself to the director Polly (Nicki Aycox) as a mentor for big brother program, and asks to meet the boy. Polly seems hesitant as the boy has had behavioral problem and been returned by several foster families, but agrees to let Lewis meet him. She introduces Lewis to the orphan, James Keech (Austin Abrams). James seems to distrust all adults and especially dislikes the nuns at the home (whom he referrers to as 'the penguins') and is at first unreceptive to Lewis but agrees to go to the zoo.
At the zoo Lewis asks James what he would like to be when he grows up, James seems unsure, but says he is good with math and would like to be an inventor, maybe even making a time machine so he could go back and fix his life. Back at the home James tells Lewis he wants to show him something, promising him to secrecy. Lewis promises and James shows him his 'private zoo'; a box with several small animals, including a mouse, a frog and a dragonfly that are all dead and partially dissected similar to the murder victims.
However, Lewis is shocked and James becomes very upset, yelling at him to leave. Polly hears the yelling and comes into the dorm where James angrily accuses Lewis of trying to molest him. Polly doesn't believe the accusation as James has a history of making similar claims. Lewis starts to tells Polly about the dead animals but James was angrily shouts that he promised not to tell. Lewis decides not to say anything and leaves.
Lewis deduces that the killer isn't a relative of James but rather James himself, having traveled back from the future to 'fix his life'. As Lewis continues to try to stop the killer, he tries to find the third woman from the journal. The evidence leads him back to the boys' home. While talking to Polly he sees her college degree on the wall and realizes she is the third woman on the killer's list, with Polly being a nickname. Lewis is then arrested at the boy's home and taken to the police station.
At the police station he tries to explain but the police still do not believe him. Keech arrives pretending to be Lewis' lawyer. During a private conference he reveals to Lewis that his theory is correct, showing Lewis the pocket watch from the alley revealing it to actually be a time machine, and that he is James from the year 2032 coming back to fix his life. James uses the time machine to transport Lewis and himself to the boys' home, where he has Polly tied up on the roof.
Keech demands that Lewis get the younger James from his room, threatening to kill Polly if he doesn't. Lewis quietly enters the dorm and prepares to kill the younger James hoping to set the time-line right, but can't bring himself to kill the sleeping child. Instead, he hides James inside a restroom, and goes to the roof. Keech explains that the woman from the opening scene was his mother who was abusive so he killed her, and he has been traveling through time, killing other people in an effort to set his life right.
Meanwhile, James leaves the bathroom and follows Lewis to the roof. James sees his older self and asks Keech if he is his father, but Keech tells him the truth about being his future self. James gets upset that Keech plans to hurt Polly, stating that she is the only person that has been nice to him, but Keech tells James that Polly is about to find his “private zoo” and will send him to a mental hospital where his abuse continues.
While on the roof, Keech reveals two more inventions: the small tazer like device from the opening scene is revealed to actually be a cutting torch, and the knife is shown to be an advanced motorized weapon with the serrated edge cycling like a chainsaw. During the struggle Keech drops the knife which James picks up and uses to slash Keech's leg. However, Keech pushes James away and accidentally knocks him off the roof. Keech turns to kill Lewis but as James dies from the fall Keech disappears.
During the closing scenes Lewis is seen driving. Using a voice over he explains that since James died at the age of 11 the time line was 'made right' and he never became the serial killer. Each of the killer's victims is shown to still be alive including James himself. We see Lewis driving past the rundown house from the beginning of the movie which we now know to be James's mother's house. However, James comes out the front door to take out the trash. The movie closes with Lewis going home to his wife and son.Cuba Gooding Jr. as Lewis Hicks
Neal McDonough as Keech
Nicki Aycox as Polly
Austin Abrams as James
Yancey Arias as Detective Ed Beker
Dane Rhodes as Detective Gordon
Danielle Nicolet as Gina Hicks
Adrianne Frost as Vicki Ihrling
Edrick Browne as Detective Maddox
Veronica Berry as Felicia Carson
Shanna Forrestall as Kayla Pierce
James DuMont as Zoo Guard
Angelena Swords Brocato as Shelly
Ross Britz as Rookie Cop
Michael Dardant as Magician
It is set and filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on February 7 and April 1, 2010.
Ticking Clock has received mixed reviews from critics. News Blaze positively reviewed the movie, stating "though this plot has enough holes to qualify as a golf course, small screen director Ernie Barbarash (Meteor) manages to sustain sufficient suspension of disbelief, via a heavy dose of heady suspense throughout." Dread Central panned the film, saying that it was a "fairly iffy serial killer thriller with a few decent moments and an intriguing but otherwise underdeveloped conceit behind its killer’s modus operandi; the insulting ending left me wishing I could have turned the clock back and gotten those 100 minutes back." DVD Talk also negatively reviewed the film, writing "Once you have accepted that you can predict exactly where the film is going, the proceedings are still watchable but far less exciting."
DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on January 4, 2011, and also Region 2 in the United Kingdom on 10 January 2011, it was distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.