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At the Movie: 88 Minutes I’ll Never Get Back: 88 Minutes *

I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. After all, it isn’t often one comes in contact with a film that isn’t even at 10 percent on I knew I was in for a real dog, a turkey, a frontrunner for the Razzie Awards. This, based on the reaction by the critics who unanimously declared it one of the worst films of Al Pacino’s career.

The New York Times declared Pacino in need of a career intervention but fears it may be too late. Richard Roeper of Ebert and Roeper called it the worst film of 2008. For someone who values, even revels in, truly bad films, I was immediately intrigued. The embarrassing truth is that I never hate these kinds of films, and I rarely agree with the mass of voices out there who are in agreement; I loved Ishtar and didn’t mind Gigli all that much. Perhaps this means I have bad taste. If so, so be it.

Unfortunately, though, 88 Minutes is not even pleasurably bad. It commits the worst sin of all – it’s boring. Yes, boring, despite the numerous murders and tawdry sexual encounters and yes, boring, despite starring Al Pacino, with supporting turns by Amy Brenneman and Alicia Witt. It’s boring despite it being a clock-watching thriller where a man is supposed to die when 88 minutes are up. Presumably the screenwriter called it 88 minutes in hopes of the film being 88 minutes long – otherwise, why bother calling it that at all? Why that particular number? Well, any screenwriter or film director will know why: 88 is close enough to 90 to make it doable.

But the film is longer than 88 minutes, rendering the whole premise utterly useless. They might as well have called it 500 minutes or four minutes. Once you get passed the pointlessness of the title, you are then faced with director Jon Avnet’s attempt to make an interesting thriller that was tragically weighted down by screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson’s implausible and badly written screenplay.

88 Minutes is about a forensic something-or-other who helps put a vicious serial killer on death row, and on the evening of his execution someone gives Pacino 88 minutes before he is to be killed by someone in his inner circle. Since he is mostly surrounded by women, all of whom seem to be attracted to him, only women seem suspect in the film.

Trust me, going over the plot of this one is a pointless exercise. All you need to know is that Al Pacino collected a paycheck and at the same time took an “I don’t care” pill which made him sleepwalk lazily through the bad dialogue and action sequences. He does muster up some real man-crying tears at one point, though, so perhaps I’m going a tad overboard.

It occurred to me while watching this film that it probably would have been better if they’d hired a hungrier actor, someone with something to prove, someone who would make reading the dictionary out loud an entertainment event. That someone never got a chance to play the part because the big cheese was probably the only reason the film got made in the first place. And the cycle repeats. Will there ever be a good role out there for Al Pacino?

Strangely enough, Avnet and Pacino team up again later in the year with Righteous Kill, which is about two cops (Robert De Niro is the other one), and there may even be a serial killer involved. Let’s hope the publicity team finds out a way to distinguish that film from this disaster.

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