October 17th, 2008

88 MINUTES (2008) **

Neal (Tin Man) McDonough is a Seattle based serial killer (nicknamed rather unimaginatively, “The Seattle Slayer”) who likes to hang women upside down and slice them open with a scalpel.  During McDonough’s trial, it’s forensic psychologist Al Pacino’s testimony that convicts him and when he’s one day away from execution, he decides to play a little game with old Al.  On his way to work, Pacino gets a phone call telling him he’s got 88 minutes to live and he spends the remainder of the movie figuring out who is trying to kill him and how they are connected to the psycho he helped put away.

 

This thriller is pretty inept in just about every way.  It’s thoroughly preposterous and stretches all limits of plausibility, even for movie standards.  The plot has more holes than a miniature golf course.  Seriously, why would a psycho call Al Pacino and tell him he’s going to kill him in 88 minutes and then 54 minutes later try to shoot him?  I mean if the killer was so intent on killing Al at a specific time, then why would he try to blow him up with a car bomb 4 minutes after missing him with the gun? 

 

And while we’re on the subject of time here, let me go on the record by saying that the movie severely bungles the initial premise of letting Pacino’s predicament play out in “real time”.  This same gimmick was also employed in Nick of Time and was done brilliantly in Running Time.  Here, director Jon (Fried Green Tomatoes) Avnet doesn’t really play by the rules.  I mean if you are going to do things in real time, at least keep your characters in a confined area so it makes their movements believable and congruent with the ticking clock.  Several times during the course of 88 Minutes, Pacino gets in his car and goes across the city in no less than 30 seconds.  C’mon Avnet!

 

As bad as most of this mess is, Pacino anchors things really well.  He doesn’t resort to any of his overacting theatrics and is good at giving his character various shades of grey.  I always thought that McDonough was one helluva boring ass actor (if you don’t believe me, check out his comatose performance as Lindsay Lohan’s dad in I Know Who Killed Me), but his total lack of a personality makes him an ideal serial killer. 

 

What really made the movie worth watching was Alicia Witt’s performance as Pacino’s assistant who gets caught up in his life-or-death situation.  I’ve always felt that Alicia had been criminally underused in the past and never really got her due.  This is her first big role in an action movie and she equips herself nicely.  She’s also incredibly hot in this flick too.  Every time the plot dragged out its umpteenth red herring, I didn’t really mind as long as Alicia was on the screen, pouting out her lips and giving me one of those “Come hither” looks.  In fact, this flick didn’t even need a plot, all it needed was 88 solid minutes of Alicia Witt looking dead sexy and I would’ve been happy.

 

Avnet and Pacino re-teamed for Righteous Kill later in the year.