Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Deborah Kara Unger, Amy Brenneman, Leelee Sobieski, Neal McDonough, William Forsythe
Gary Scott Thompson
Much like is true for Michael Caine, there are two Al Pacinos.
The first Al Pacino is Oscar Pacino. Oscar Pacino is the Al Pacino who has won an Oscar and been nominated on multiple occasions for such films as "The Godfather," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and, yes, even "Scent of a Woman."
Then, there's the other Al Pacino. We might as well call him Razzie Al, even though Pacino's only been nominated for a Razzie twice.
Razzie Al has inflicted upon his audience Razzie-nominated performances in "Gigli" and "Revolution" along with a host of other over-the-top characterizations that would embarrass even the likes of Razzie winners Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Halle Berry.
"88 Minutes" is Razzie Al at his absolute worst, portraying forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm. Gramm has just testified against a noted serial killer, and suddenly finds himself facing a creepy caller's threat that he has a mere 88 minutes left to live.
Meant to be a thriller in much the same way that "Showgirls" was meant to be erotic, "88 Minutes" has that same sort of train wreck cinematic quality to it. In other words, you know it's awful but you still can't stop watching it.
What makes the entire affair even funnier is that the cast seems to realize just how awful their film really is, and so virtually everyone sleepwalks their way through the film.
The screenplay, by Gary Scott Thompson ("2 Fast 2 Furious" and, rather ironically, "The Underachievers"), is so inept it's almost hypnotically inept. It's difficult to not be entertained by such obvious plot exposition and wooden dialogue that one wonders if supporting player Leelee Sobieski stole some of the dialogue from her last Uwe Boll film.
While the 68-year-old Pacino is still a commanding cinematic presence, his performance in "88 Minutes" is so filled with false bravado that it's actually downright embarrassing. It almost feels like the macho B.S. a guy hands out when he's making love to a beautiful babe but can't manage to sustain an erection.
"88 Minutes" is just plain limp.
Unfortunately, Pacino takes down the rest of the cast with him, most notably the aforementioned Sobieski along with Deborah Kara Unger as the head of a local psych department and Alicia Witt as a smitten student of Gramm's. Amy Brenneman, as Gramm's lesbian assistant, and Neal McDonough, as the convicted serial killer, don't fare much better but at least seem to be giving the film a reasonable effort.
Director Jon Avnet ("Fried Green Tomatoes") clearly has no grasp for action films or thrillers, as there's almost nothing exciting nor particularly thrilling contained within "88 Minutes."
"88 Minutes" offers audiences the trifecta of moviemaking disaster. It is abysmally written, boringly shot and the cast may very well qualify as the worst ensemble cast so far in 2008.
The odd thing is that as awful as "88 Minutes" is, I find myself completely unable to completely trash it. Any film that can make me laugh as much as I did during "88 Minutes," intentionally or not, simply must receive at least a little bit of credit and, at the very least, a passing grade.
After years of Oscar-nominated performances, Pacino finally captured the golden statuette in 1993 for "Scent of a Woman." After two Razzie nominations, most recently for "Gigli," 2008 may be the year when Pacino joins Halle Berry as a prior Oscar winner who takes home a Razzie.
Remember how badly "Showgirls" was panned when it was released? Years later, most of us look back on the film with a certain affection. "88 Minutes" may very well end up the same way. Is "88 Minutes" an awful film? Absolutely, but it sure was a lot of fun.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic