Movie News & Reviews

88 Minutes ends up 108 minutes too long

I think Al Pacino might actually be a dead person.

Dead people aren't known for having glowing orange tans like the onePacino sports in 88 Minutes, but then neither do residents ofSeattle, where it's set. Surely they covet the burnished bronze skinthose of us who live on the other side of the Cascades get just bystepping outside in August, but they'll just have to settle for theirmusic scene, pro sports teams and many delicious but affordablerestaurants.

But enough about that hellhole. No, the reason I think Pacino's deadis because he keeps appearing in these stinkbomb movies that respectedmega-stars with fully living brains steer clear of. (They generallyleave them all for Nicolas Cage.) Choosing these roles of his ownfree will makes no sense, so we can only conclude he's an old-schoolzombie, the kind who march around to the beat of their voodoodrummers.

Somewhere, a brilliant Caribbean overlord is slathering tanning butterall over Zombie Pacino's face to hide the fact he's a walking corpse,agreeing to the first script that crosses his desk, then cashing hisfat-ass checks. Unlikely? Yeah, well, not any more so than believinganyone could read 88 Minute's crazy, nonsensical script andthinking, "Hey, that's something I want to be a part of."

After a brutal killing, the testimony of forensic psychologist AlPacino was crucial in the conviction of Neal McDonough, the "SeattleSlayer." Nine years later and mere days before the killer's slated tobe executed, someone strikes again, duplicating the Slayer's methodsand throwing McDonough's sentence into doubt.

By what is surely a coincidence, Pacino gets a death threat shortlyafter learning about the new murder: he has 88 minutes to live, thecaller says, then he'll be killed like a dog.

Meanwhile, the police investigation begins to turn up evidence thatnot only looks like it'll clear McDonough completely, but points thefinger at Pacino instead. With the clock ticking, he's got to findthe new killer before he becomes the next victim.

I've only dealt with a couple serial killers myself, but it seems tome if you tell a guy he's got 88 minutes to live, you don't starttrying to shoot him or blow him up until those 88 minutes are done. Idon't care how many people you've killed, a promise is a promise.Start breaking those, and we're right back to living in yurts andwiping with leaves.

No doubt that's just a cheap way to amp up the tension; otherwise, wethe audience might just be lulled to sleep, guaranteed that whateverhappens to Pacino, at least he's got a full hour and a half to teararound Seattle traffic in an enchanted taxi cab that delivers himwherever he needs to be in five minutes or less as he and his teachingassistant chase down any number of false leads.

That need to manufacture suspense would also explain director JonAvnet's decision to resort to a truckload of camera tomfoolery to implicate suspects.Nothing says "serial rapist and murderer" like a crash-zoom onsomeone's eyes. 88 Minutes knows this well enough to use thesame technique on an entire classroom of college students.

You know what would be even scarier than extreme closeups of students'eyes, though? If they were blind in one eye, or they had a big fatmole on their face, or if they spoke with a Eurotrash accent. Nowthat's how you make people look evil without coming up with anythingoriginal. It's like if you wanted to make a flashback, then you'dmake sure to make it look like a '70s home movie in slow motion, alldreamy and grainy and washed-out. Oh, hold up--88 Minutes doesthat, too.

Then again, rolling out a bunch of ridiculous movie cliches isn't sucha bad idea so long as they're distracting us from the even moreridiculous plot. Just once I'd like to see a serial killer'slaughably complicated plan for revenge not go off perfectlyuntil the hero thwarts it in the very end. Is that too much to ask?A little believability in our criminal masterminds? The holes in thisone aren't necessarily in the plot points -- the godlike stalking, thecar bomb, the extraction of Pacino's semen from a live woman into adead one -- but in the fact the movie never shows the team of trainedelves helping the killer pull all this crap off.

All of which amounts to a steaming pile of bad. It's the kind ofmovie you get halfway through and realize it's a cruel joke that 88Minutes is 108 minutes long.

Grade: D+