April 21, 2008

88 Minutes Too Long

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Watching 88 Minutes is about as fun as masturbating with sandpaper (or so I’d imagine). This serial killer crime flick tortures the audience from start to finish — a grueling 108 minutes in length (I know, the title is deceiving). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I hope to save you some time and money this week, because this movie is absolutely the most terrible film I have seen in recent memory — 88 Minutes only finds consistency in its trashiness. With cinematography akin to a fifth grader’s iMovie project, in addition to abysmal acting and a stale plotline, 88 Minutes fails in every criteria for entertainment and moviemaking.
Director Jon Avnet, an accomplished producer and clearly-out-of-practice director, has been successful behind the camera in the past (he directed 1991’s Fried Green Tomatoes and produced the Mighty Ducks trilogy). Yet, despite his 30-plus years of experience, Avnet and a stellar cast completely miss the target in this idiotic crime thriller. I disliked the film to such a degree that I would place it in between Baby Geniuses and From Justin to Kelly on my list of most hated films of all time.
This is a movie that will live in infamy as home to Al Pacino’s worst cinematic performance ever. Although Pacino is one of the greatest actors of our time, his legend has faded after recent appearances in forgettable (and awful) films like Ocean’s 13, Gigli and Simone. In 88 Minutes, the aging Pacino plays the supposedly bold, heroic and dark Dr. Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist whose testimony is key to the conviction of the most notorious serial killers. Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) plays one of these crazies, locked up for the bizarre murders of several women by the circumstantial testimony of Dr. Gramm.
The bulk of the movie centers on Gramm’s quest to keep Forster from staying his execution, while someone close to the doctor frames him for several murders committed in the same manner as those by the imprisoned serial killer. Dr. Gramm believes that Forster is behind these copycat killings — a ploy to shed doubt on his own guilt by challenging the doctor’s credibility. Meanwhile, Dr. Gramm receives repeated threatening phone calls, which alert him of a countdown — that he has 88 Minutes left to live. As he grows increasingly paranoid, mirrored by the heightened corny and dramatic score, he decides that anyone could be the mole and everyone looks guilty. The plot twist at the end of this crime drama is that there is actually no twist at all; the movie ends exactly how you’d imagine it would.
The acting in this film is beyond horrendous. Pacino seems drunk through the entire first half of the film. His speech regularly devolves into emotional slurring, and he falls into fits of rage between CSI-esque moments of genius crime-solving. Every other actor and actress seem to be extremely bipolar, transforming back and forth from jubilant, young and sharp academics to helpless, troubled and conniving criminals. (The directions Jon Avnet gave to his actors were probably something along the lines of, “In this scene, try to look guilty and constipated.”) The result of this poor acting is a entire cast of one-dimensional characters with no personalities and no motivations.
Beyond the film’s technical problems, the central themes and plotline are troubled from the start. Interspersed awkwardly throughout 88 Minutes are one-liners and faux moralizations such as, “The end justifies the means,” and “Intuition, not evidence, should guide you.” This film espouses a series of ethically perverse maxims, best exemplified by the glorification of the misogynistic Dr. Jack Gramm.
Jack massages, gropes and tenderly kisses the neck of every attractive woman in his life: His secretary, the dean of the law school, his generations-younger students, etc. Although these women are supposed to be sharp, cream-of-the-crop individuals, they all play the same role of damsel in distress. Each time Al Pacino ass-slapped or caressed one of these young women, I could not help but remind myself of the fact that Pacino was born a year before America entered WWII, and he is probably a decade older than these women’s fathers.
At the very best, this movie is a drawn out and lowbrow TV crime drama. Yet we have lower expectations for TV shows because they are limited by time, budget and still-developing actors. Somehow, 88 Minutes took a 30-million dollar budget, an accomplished cast and an experienced director and failed to create anything coherent, cohesive or at all entertaining. Don’t see this movie. Save your money and your time and go spend your minutes outside enjoying the fantastic weather instead.