88 Minutes

The feeling of almost every critic in the world who watched 88 Minutes in 2007.
**

Okay, so the plot is completely about the chase and race against time. It's about numerous plot machinations, clues upon clues, character assassination, phone call threats, serial / copycat killer crime scenes, implications, citywide running around to and fro, suspicions about all those around you, forensic psychiatry whatever that is (is this a real profession?), students in the psychiatrist's class getting involved, red herrings who come out of the woodwork, gunshots fired, building burning, motorcycle ride collision attempt, killer begging for the media to dismiss the psychiatrist's work in his trial as inadmissable science and pleading to those with authority to stay his conviction, obsessive outside help operating against the protagonist, dangling bodies facing a steep drop to hard floor, tortured women recorded repeating lines expecting not to die, a countdown called in to the psychiatrist informing him of his time left before violence comes his way, and a bomb threat at college. Pacino was a doormat for critics in this film. If his "histrionics" and "theatrics" weren't derided his hair was targeted for scorn. I personally felt the guy fucking tried. Does he go the extra mile and overreach? Yeah, sure. The film is a plot about activity. It requires him to barely stay still. He's constantly walking here and walking there. From one place to another, Pacino is on the go.



In 2009, I had watched this on a premium channel of some sort and read some reviews. It was damn near unanimous. When I posted the below review on the imdb (which I have since removed from that site and added here), of course three out of four disagreed with my assessment of the film and its detractors…
I have read multiple reviews for 88 MINUTES and the way these trained,
highly skilled critics have crucified Pacino's performance is
legendary. Is the plot highly improbable? Preposterous? Ridiculous?
Sure. But, Pacino never, to me, ever went over the top or lost control,
or anything that warrants the vultures feasting on the carcass of his
career. The film is one of those "racing against time" thrillers where
an elaborate scheme to implicate a respected crime authority in
psychiatry sets in motion a series of events that motivates the action
throughout.

Set against "real time", a technique I imagine is painstakingly
difficult to pull off, Pacino moves through 88 minutes, most of the
time with law assistant Alicia Witt in tow as his professor searches
for the identity of someone who is working in concert with death row
inmate/serial killer Neal McDonough in copycatting crime scenes,
leaving evidence to implicate him. His life constantly threatened by
this mysterious predator, Pacino, with help from FBI detective William
Forsythe, and his secretary Amy Brenneman, will pursue the identity of
a lawyer who visited McDonough as the possible suspect behind the
orchestrated cat-and-mouse game.

The setting is Seattle, Washington, with Pacino and Witt hitting the
pavement, driving the streets, trying to fit the missing pieces to an
elaborate puzzle. Deborah Kara Unger has a small, but lucrative role as
Pacino's university dean. Ben McKenzie is a law student of Pacino's who
believes McDonough is innocent, framed by the "forensic psychiatrist",
ably convincing the jury to indict the sleazoid for the murder of the
twin sister. Leelee Sobieski is another student of Pacino's who was
supposedly attacked by someone who could be the person responsible for
copycat slayer murders(..the murders where rope and pulley hang the
initial victim upside down, before the use of a scalpel slices the
intended individual).

There's no doubt that it's next to nearly impossible, quite
implausible, that such a brilliantly, sharply executed plot could be
pulled off by the person responsible. Pacino is constantly on a cell
phone, which I'm sure will(..or has) raise the ire of many viewers. All
this talk of how awful 88 MINUTES was, I think, is just nonsense..yes,
the story is nonsensical and ludicrous, but it's at least competently
made, that's something in itself. Everyone has mocked and ridiculed
Pacino for his hair(..and the fact that he dyed it black)and
performance, how his career is over, and I think that's just
rubbish..it isn't a stellar mark in a substantial career, but to write
him off and laugh uproariously at Pacino for because of his association
with an unsuccessful film is a bit too much.


Yes, I do cut the film some slack, perhaps give it more rope and should have tugged early into the running time due to its breathlessly paced nonsensical plotting. Perhaps Pacino dodging a firetruck and collapsing onto Witt before a car blows up (well, it blows up not quite on cue) appear as grossly manufactured action setpieces, I can’t deny, but he at least soldiers ahead, faithfully for director Avnet, with most believing it is undeserved of all the effort. I have seen the term “sleepwalk” used for Pacino’s performance, and I certainly don’t agree with that. I never see him dosing in his work. Does he try and compensate with this rather inadequately framed film which ups contrivance to the nth degree? Yes. I guess he felt he had no choice. No greater deluge of dumb can outmatch when Forsythe just allows Pacino to leave despite a dead woman hanging in an apartment he spent the night with or so little evidence convicting a man besides the insight of a psychiatrist and eyewitness testimony that could or could not have been practiced. Compounding stressors all around Pacino and he forges ahead until he escapes the noose. Witt’s in love with him and follows Pacino around, Sobieski seems to have been attacked by the copycat and seeks his help then vanishes from the plot, McKenzie the student that challenges him in every way including believing he might be the “Seattle Slayer”; weaved into trafficky plot developments when involved in Pacino’s dalliance with peril. All the camera and editing technique to hurry the film along and give this all such speed and immediacy can’t disguise its failures. I won’t claim this is a treat or a treasure. It simply isn’t. But will I join the fray and condemn it? Nah.

Comments