There's much to be made of Al Pacino's decline from his heights as the understated, controlled Michael Corleone of The Godfather to the screaming, overacting laughing-stock he's become now. With every new performance, the critics gush about how awful the movie is and we laugh at what a caricature the man has become. Maybe it's time to stop laughing and start lamenting. We're talking about a man once considered one of the greatest actors of all time. His current state hasn't made his older performances seem worse, but it does make me sad when I watch, say, Dog Day Afternoon. It makes me never want to watch a newer Al Pacino movie again. Indeed, in 88 Minutes, #59 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst movies of the decade, even Pacino himself looks like he's tired of this crap.
Sure, he screams with his overdone accent that he seems to have developed around the time of Scent of a Woman, but he does it with no flair. He just looks tired. The bad hair he has in the film is more enthralling than he is. In one scene, Alicia Witt acts circles around him, so much so that the scene fails because he can't live up to her performance. It's all depressing and it deadens the entire experience of watching the movie, making it seem more mediocre than flat-out bad, until you think hard about what the movie has to offer beyond Pacino and all that he brings.
88 Minutes is about a forensic psychologist who helps to put a serial rapist-murderer behind bars. The bad guy, protesting that he is innocent, turns to Pacino and says, "Tick tock, doc." Sure enough, nine years later, long after any clock would have run out of batteries, Pacino gets a phone call on the day of the killer's execution. "Tick tock, you have eighty-eight minutes to live." I'm all about real-time thrillers. I love 24, liked Johnny Depp's movie Nick of Time, and feel that using time in that manner lays a foundation of suspense upon which the film maker can build the plot. However, a real-time thriller 88 Minutes is not. I think it means to be, but it jumps four minutes almost immediately and then jumps a bit later on. It never shows you a clock clearly enough for you to do a calculation to figure out when exactly the deadline is in relation to other clocks you see. In fact, the first time it shows you one, it unravels the entire movie with one of the worst continuity decisions I can remember.
Pacino, teaching a class, gets a call that he has eighty-whatever minutes left and looks around to see one of his students playing with their cell phone. He grabs it and asks the student what is going on. The student says that he was just checking the score of the Mariners game (the movie takes place in Seattle) and we see that the Mariners are leading the Yankees 3-1 in the bottom of the first, at Seattle. A couple of minutes later, Pacino looks at a clock to reveal that it is 10:47AM. What? What?!? I had to pause the movie and think about that for a minute. How could anyone choose to include a detail that had the Mariners playing a home game that started at 10AM? Not that the movie had any credibility -- given that it was on this list and that it stars Pacino and was made in the last ten years -- but it immediately made me question every single thing the movie put forward. And when a movie is as poorly constructed as this one, that's not a good thing to have happen.
The real flaw in this movie is that none of the details make sense, just red herring after red herring. The writer continuously introduces new things deep into the story that either don't add to the (lack of) suspense or are laughable. The film tries to throw you for loop after loop as the mystery unfolds but, much like the DVD of this movie, nobody buys it. It becomes a mush of details that nobody would care about, leading to a climax with a horrible continuity error and a misuse of the real-time concept. Although time jumps at a couple of places in the movie, the time at the end actually seems to stretch out longer than it should.
So, as the depression over Pacino's career deadens any hard feelings I have towards this movie, the fact that this review is significantly longer than I originally meant it to be says that 88 Minutes was really bad. You want to know how bad? Just watch from 3:55 to 5:55 of the clip below. You get all of Pacino's bad hair and bad acting that you need from just those two minutes. Who talks into a cell phone like that?
Update: I realized after watching the above clip again that Pacino recaps the entire plot of the movie in that cell phone conversation. That's one way to know a mystery movie is awful; when they feel they have to tell you exactly what happened at the end.