Monday, June 13, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #55: 88 Minutes

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

Pity poor Al Pacino. Still widely considered to be one of the greatest living actors of stage and screen, the guy can't seem to pick good movies to star in. His 1970's heyday well behind him, Pacino still pops up in a great film every now and again, but he acts like a major league batting champion: he only scores a hit a third of the time.

The real tragedy that separates much of the Worst of the Worst featured in this project is not just that the films are ineptly scripted, directed, and acted; it's that they oftentimes represent a squandering of prodigious cinematic talent. Any given Syfy Original Movie or Asylum output is truly terrible and worthy of mockery, but at least they're aiming low and have their tongues firmly in cheek (one hopes). A thriller like 88 Minutes, however? It stars Al Pacino.

That's Al Pacino, Academy Award winner. Al Pacino, Michael Corleone. Al Pacino, Method actor extraordinaire. He's definitely above a gimmicky murder mystery. Or is he? I'm sure that if you raised a human being in an isolated bubble and only let them view Al Pacino's films from let's say the 1990's on, they would imagine that he was a moderately talented actor with sparks of greatness, but nothing remarkable. A future answer to a trivia question perhaps. The truth is Pacino, much like his Fokker-fied Godfather co-star Robert De Niro, may be a relic of an earlier era of cinema. Or maybe he's just struggling as he ages. I probably couldn't say, but he surely deserves better than 88 Minutes (or Gigli, for that matter).

Pacino stars as Dr. Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist and expert on serial killers. On the eve of his most recent and famous conviction's (repeat offender Neal McDonaugh) execution, Gramm begins to receive threatening phone calls alluding to his impending death. What follows is a stupid and clearly 24-inspired real-time mystery wherein Gramm must figure out who is trying to kill him, why, and how he can stop them. What disappointed me most about the movie was that the eighty-eight minute countdown started a half an hour into the film, instead of merely being the movie's runtime.

Among 88 Minutes' crimes, despite being nearly two hours long, it was just far too over-the-top. Now, I'm as much a fan of a salacious pulp thriller as the next guy; nothing I love better than tawdry sex and ultraviolence, but it has to be handled well. 88 Minutes is a by-product of our culture's frankly gross and pedestrian obsession with serial killers. Horrifying details of rape/murder sprees are handled with such lack of skill that the acts committed sound less like the most horrifying thing imaginable and more like a bunch of plot points decided by committee. "Oh yes, 'semen found in vaginal cavity'...make sure to throw that one on the pile!"

Not to mention that every attractive woman in this movie is either a lesbian or accused by Pacino of being a lesbian as part of the conspiracy against him. "You slept with her and she planted the evidence in your apartment!" The movie tries to titillate (and what could be more titillating than two women having sex with each other!) but just like the boring butcherings of the innocent, it's transgression by way of Redbox.

In the end, the killer is revealed as the most-likely-least-likely suspect and we the audience are never, ever on the edge of our seats. Pacino's "hoo-ah!"ing makes him seem to be some sort of alien life form from a planet of acting way above the level of his co-stars, much to the film's detriment. It's just another example of wasted talent in the Decade of Dreck.

88 Minutes is ranked #59 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.