88 Minutes (2007)

(In theaters, April 2008) Al Pacino can chew scenery like anyone else, and his oversize persona, when finally unleashed very late in the film, is probably the only thing that saved 88 Minutes from a quick and merciful straight-to-video release. Well, that and the film’s fake real-time premise, which gets relatively dense once the show is firmly on the road. Until then, however, it’s a long slog through a far too lengthy prologue, a laborious set of character introductions and far too many scenes dedicated to a villain that’s more exasperating than interesting. A better film would have taken the hint of the title and run with a real-time thriller the likes of which TV series 24 was made so popular. Here, alas, the film seldom has the courage of its own concept, and in fact blows part of its conclusion early by giving a seemingly minor role to a major thespian: what’s that person doing in such a small role unless it’s meant to become… something else? Still, the film doesn’t need external encyclopedic knowledge of actors to fail on its own merit: Despite being set in Seattle, it’s visibly shot in Vancouver (watch for the newspaper boxes and the known intersections!), a lax attitude to the product that carries over to just about every other aspect of this potboiler thriller. Pacino remains the only rock of watchable quality in this film, especially at the conclusion, which makes less sense that anyone can figure out given the tight time constraints of the story. Oh well; call it a second choice for a rainy afternoon when you’ve seen just about everything else at the video store.

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