Monday, June 25, 2007

88 Minutes

The verdict: A derivative thriller that takes the template of '24' and for some reason adds a dash of Wes Craven's 'Scream' franchise. The result lacks originality or freshness, and Al shamelessly phones it in.

The rating: 4/10

I can almost forgive Pacino's his career slump of the last seven years or so. I say 'almost', because I stubbornly believed before watching '88 Minutes' that his temporary streak of stinkers might have come to an end. Sadly, I was wrong, and this movie made me a little angry.

I still forgive Al for this one though, and my willingness to forget these two hours I'll never get back is due to the many many excellent movies Pacino has already made. The 90's were particularly good to Alfredo and his audience, producing - among others - 'The Insider', 'Donnie Brasco', 'Glengarry Glen Ross', 'Carlito's Way' and 'Heat'. (Not a bad few years really... - Ed) This run only makes it all the more baffling to witness Al's choices of the last eight years or so. Anyone else remember 'Two for the Money'? I don't. What about 'Sim0ne'? ... exactly.

If 88 Minutes is remembered at all, it will be as part of the latter category, one of Pacino's forgettable run of movies before he (hopefully) came blistering back into form. But more on Pacino's up-coming movies later.

This one tells the story of Dr. Jack (are all heroes called Jack these days!? - Ed) Gramm, a womanising psychologist who works with the FBI, and who finds himself embroiled in controversy due to testimony given against the 'Seattle Slayer', a certain Jon Forster. Forster is on death row, and publicly claims our Al fabricated his testimony. While the media storm builds around Gramm, Al has a really bad morning. It starts with a police interview, when he finds himself implicated in a murder that looks like the handiwork of the Seattle Slayer... then, before you can say 'it's a fair cop, guv'nor', in the middle of a lecture to his university class, Al receives a call on his cell-phone informing him that he will be killed in 88 minutes... (I think we have the premise - Ed)

Cue a suspicious look around the lecture theatre, where a mysteriously shady figure has just happened to wander in, and then things start happening pretty much in real-time. Al makes phone call after phone call to his secretary, who patches incoming calls back to him, just like Jack Bauer, and he is irresistibly drawn back towards the university campus to find out who has framed him..., just like 'Scream'.

The mildly suspenseful plot unfolds via so many cell-phone calls, this one could have been called '88 Peak Minutes to Friends'. The supporting cast are mostly made up of admiring students of Pacino's character, and this is a serious case of art reflecting life, as Pacino sleepwalks through his scenes alongside a number of doe-eyed starlets who can hardly conceal their excitement at acting alongside, like, Tony frickin' Montana! (That's just, like, so whatever - Ed)

So anyway, Al gets shot at a few times, takes a few more threatening phone calls, and runs around quite a lot, but the suspense never really builds to anything approaching worry about the outcome. Despite the pressure of a deadline, Al just seems to wearily trot towards the paycheck in this one. Pacino's name alone may single-handedly save '88 Minutes' from the 'straight-to-dvd' bucket, but I would strongly advise you to avoid it if it is released in cinemas.

So what next for Pacino? Well, things can only get better. I do have high hopes for his next movie, given that he's signed up to play Salvador Dali in 'Dali & I', but my hopes are tempered by the fact that that movie's director is the same guy who made 'Sim0ne'... I also have high hopes for Pacino's next movie alongside Robert DeNiro, the up-coming 'Righteous Kill', but then, the guy who directed '88 Minutes' is directing that one...

In any case, do yourself a favour and avoid this one. And here's hoping the future's a lot brighter for Pacino. He's certainly better than this...

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