88 Minutes

So I saw 88 Minutes, starring Al Pacino and Leelee Sobieski and a fair number of recognizable TV actors. (Oh, and the serial killer guy is also mostly in movies, but I can’t remember his name. You’d know him if you saw him.) Anyway, Al Pacino is a forensic psychologist for the FBI who testified to get the serial killer locked up, but it’s questionable whether his testimony was completely accurate or fair, and maybe that guy actually isn’t a serial killer at all, y’know?

Therefore, come the scheduled day of execution, things go wonky. There’s a copycat killer in town for the first time in 8 years, unless it’s the real killer? And evidence points to Al, who meanwhile has been warned that he has 88 minutes to live by someone using trademark phrases the convicted guy used during the trial. And anyway, maybe Al really is the serial killer, in which case it’s the convicted guy and not the real serial killer threatening him? Plus, there has to be an accomplice, which might be his TA, or one of his students, or the creepy motorcycle guy who’s stalking around everywhere.

That right there is where the movie excelled. It ratcheted up levels of paranoia, both in Pacino and in the audience who couldn’t be sure about his real role in events, on a non-stop basis. And there were layer after oniony layer of new questions continuously being exposed. The problems I had weren’t really enough to bring me down from that high, but they were real problems.

For one thing, the script was often wooden. I would normally blame this on the actors, but I’ve seen these actors excel elsewhere, and I know that when you’ve got a Pacino on set with you, your game is naturally raised up anyway. So I listened to the lines themselves divorced from intonation, and hotty Alicia Witt bemoaning her choice to fall for her professor while he sits beside her in stony silence, almost as if she’s supposed to be having an internal monologue, that was a terrible scene. But I can’t believe it’s because she or Pacino are terrible, which leaves few options. I suppose the directing may have been bad instead; or perhaps they colluded, partner-style, one from prison? Oh, oops. Forget I said that. Anyway, that was an occasional issue, plus the ending kind of stalled out for me. But since I can’t point to any specific complaint, it may just tie back into the original issue, that the villainous monologue had the same kinds of problems as at other script-points.

But I’m seriously about the paranoid tension. They hit that one out of the ballpark.

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