Pop quiz time, kids. What would you do if you found yourself in the following situations?
1.) You’re a teacher’s assistant and just discovered that a student has been murdered and your professor has received a death threat informing him that he has only 88 minutes to live. Would you
a. Cry hysterically
b. Run home and crouch under a table
c. Inform your local law enforcement
d. Take off your already see-through top and pose saucily on your professor’s staircase in some silk lingerie.
2.) You’re an FBI agent who’s just been told by your top forensic psychiatrist that he’s received a death threat informing him that he has only 88 minutes to live. Would you
a. Act shocked
b. Act outraged
c. Act sympathetic
d. Ask, “Jesus, Jack, why 88 minutes?”
If you’ve answered (d) to both, then congratulations, you are dumb enough to be a character in The Further Shaming of Al Pacino, otherwise known as 88 Minutes.
I have to admit that I didn’t find the movie quite as idiotic as my fellow critics apparently did, who laughed loudly and repeatedly after about Minute 15 while I thought, say, Why, I can’t believe those insubordinate thugs who refuse to comply when Al Pacino stops them in a parking garage! I mean, he IS a forensic psychiatrist for the *FBI*!
(OK, maybe my brain sometimes turns to mush when I’m not officially reviewing something. Movie Babe is not a machine.)
(And of course I’d be remiss not to mention the other audience members at the screening, who gave testimonials such as, Oh my GAWD that was a good movie! You didn’t know if it was this person or that person! It kept you guessing until the end! into their cell phones upon leaving the theater.)
But no, it’s not among Pacino’s finer work. So heartbreaking to see a former hero of mine devolve into caricature — his bluster isn’t quite as big as his hair in this one, at least. But he still often comes across as one of those people who’ve crossed the line between “eccentric” and “deluded,” and it gave me the fucking creeps whenever his character came within two feet of a young female, pecking one on the cheek, caressing another’s hair. Eww. (Though that’s a minor sin compared to the unnecessary nastiness of the film overall — the filmmakers seem to take a special delight in showing women being tortured and humiliated, whether by force or by merely acting retarded.)
The biggest problem in 88 Minutes is that no one behaves like normal human would. The plot involves a serial killer whom one Dr. Jack Something (Pacino) helped put away. He’s facing execution when a copycat murder is committed — one of Jack’s students, which means that not only will the killer get a stay, Jack is being set up. (Or is he?) Then there’s the death threat, delivered via cell by one of those death-metallic voice-disguising contraptions.
Nobody seems much concerned about this threat, but maybe that’s because everyone apparently hates Jack. His students descend like wolves when he doesn’t immediately tell him about their classmate’s murder. That is, when they’re not trying to seduce him, a la Alicia Witt. Also making embarrassing appearances are Leelee Sobieski, Benjamin McKenzie, and William Forsythe as Special Agent Frank, aka Noeshet Sherlock. (Seriously, though: If you’ve been working with a guy on a case for years and he tells you the details of an obvious copycat killing, would your response be, “That’s our killer’s M.O.!” Sigh.)
Like any thriller worth its mettle, 88 Minutes gets increasingly twisty and ridiculous. (My notes, and these are no spoilers, include the following: Carol! Kim! Lydia! Shelly! Oh Shelly, how could you??) It could be fun if you exchange your mind for one medium, heavily buttered popcorn, but it’d be more fun in a few months when the only price you’ll pay by watching it is your usual Comcast fees and the minor hand-shaped bruises your forehead might end up with.
Either way — and it hurts me to say this — it’s a step up from something like Zombie Strippers. Full review on that next week, but let me just say this now: The mind of Jenna Jameson is a scary thing indeed.
All right, all right, I’ll say the lines