Pacino strikes out in a big way with idiotic ‘88 Minutes’

“88 Minutes” is not just a bad film. It is idiotic — an alleged thriller that offers more laughs tha
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“88 Minutes” is not just a bad film. It is idiotic — an alleged thriller that offers more laughs than thrills.

The laughs, I assure you, are not intended by director Jon Avnet or his writer, Gary Scott Thompson. Neither are the inevitable groans from anyone with an iota of logic.

How, you may wonder, did this movie get made? How did it pass into distribution without escaping the clutches of some producer who might have shouted, “What the hell are you guys doing? Why is it that when a car heads down one street, it’s raining, but seconds later, in the same scene, the sun is out?”

‘88 Minutes’

DIRECTED BY Jon Avnet

SCREENPLAY BY Gary Scott Thompson

STARRING Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Unger and Neal McDonough

RATED R

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

Though “88 Minutes” has the germ of a tantalizing idea, didn’t anyone get past the one-paragraph treatment and realize he or she was in the presence of a ridiculously disjointed screenplay filled with holes big enough to accommodate a front loader that might have been used to dump the existing prints of this reject into a sea of woes?

But alas, what do you do when you’ve made the investment?

German release

Perhaps someone argued that with Al Pacino, this German-American production would somehow survive. Now, we learn that the movie was released in Germany, where it is already out on DVD. Maybe, an investor is hoping, American audiences do not read, but only listen to ads promising terror, suspense and intrigue with Pacino. He plays a renowned forensic psychiatrist from New York, now practicing and testifying in Seattle, battling demons and perhaps guilty of sending the wrong man to death row with fabricated testimony.

Maybe it is Pacino’s Jack Gramm who is the notorious “Seattle slayer.” Perhaps he is being set up by the death row denizen portrayed by Neal McDonough. After a prologue detailing the grisly slayings, we are in time present. It’s execution day for the convicted murderer. Suddenly, a woman is found slain in a scene that fits the “Seattle slayer” M.O. perfectly.

Is this a copycat slaying or is the slayer still at large?

On the heels of that revelation, the Seattle forensic psychiatrist gets a note: He has 88 minutes to live.

In short time, we meet a cast of characters, all of them suspects; many are students in the doctor’s forensic class. For a while, it seems as if we are engaged in a game of “Clue.” Whodunit? Who is sending these threatening missives? Students played by Leelee Sobieski, Alicia Witt or Benjamin McKenzie? Maybe it’s a lesbian assistant (Amy Brenneman)? Perhaps it’s the dean (Deborah Kara Unger).

Sound and fury

In the midst of all this cacophonous fury, an old boyfriend shows up as a potential murderer. The doctor’s car is bombed. Through it all, no one apparently thinks about calling the cops.

Sorry. We do meet one played by Robert Forsythe, who works alone, even when it’s clear he has enough time to call for backup.

Of all the movies Pacino has been in, and not all have been terrific, this is the stupidest of his career. Whether it’s the dialogue, the acting, the continuity, this is the dumbest thriller I’ve seen in a long time.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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