Touching Women

'88 Minutes': Not 88 minutes long and not entertaining, but great for Al Pacino's libido

If you're going to make a movie called 88 Minutes, it seems intuitive that the movie should last somewhere between 87 and 89 minutes. And yet, 88 Minutes is 108 minutes long. Still, I was looking forward to it, because it had received the worst advance word of any film this year, and it stars Al Pacino, who has several Oscars for overacting. Seriously, it's a category, and he's the guy to whom they give the awards.

The basic plot is that Pacino is Dr. Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist who works part time for the FBI. But mostly, he's a professor of, shockingly, forensic psychiatry. Also, this film is set in a strange alternate universe where university professors have offices the size of Zimbabwe, and forensic psychiatrists are famous.

At the start of the film, it's 1997, and two attractive young women are being raped and tortured by a Bad Man. The opening is played a little too heavily for sex and violence titillation, but it's a Hollywood movie, so I guess you can't exactly expect that they run the opening scenes past Andrea Dworkin's ghost for approval.

Anyway, about 10 years later, the Bad Man (Neal McDonough) is to be executed, thanks in part to testimony by Dr. Jack Gramm, forensic psychiatrist. But! Someone is committing a series of copycat crimes, or maybe the Bad Man is innocent, or maybe he has an accomplice on the outside, or etc.

Then Dr. Jack Gramm, forensic psychiatrist, receives a phone call telling him he'll be dead in 88 minutes. About halfway through the movie, Dr. Jack Gramm (a renowned forensic psychiatrist) stops to randomly explain, in a detailed bit of exposition, that his sister was killed by a Bad Man who tortured her for 88 minutes before she died.

Whatevs. So for 88 minutes, Dr. Jack Gramm (you probably know his work in forensic psychiatry) runs around trying to find out who the real killer is, and that's pretty much the plot. Oh, and his car blows up, and he has a handgun that he shoots at people who annoy him.

The problem with 88 Minutes isn't that it's awful; it's that it's low-end mediocrity. It's boring for about the first 50 minutes, and then it gets a little better, and then it has a kick-ass ending, but I'm guessing you'll have left the theater by then.

So while I had hoped for true atrocity, with Pacino chewing scenery like a rhinoceros that had been taught method acting, in fact, Pacino reins it in, and is even pretty decent in the lead. He has a hilarious hairpiece going on, but from the scalp down, he's well-controlled.

With no horrors to entertain me, I started to think of how this movie came about. The film does have one interesting feature: On top of Pacino, it features a list of attractive young women (well, younger than Pacino). There's Alicia Witt as the teaching assistant who has a big crush on Dr. Jack Gramm (he's her forensic psychiatry professor!), Leelee Sobieski as one of his students, Amy Brenneman as his affectionate personal secretary, Deborah Kara Unger as his boss, newcomer Tammy Hui as the young woman who survived the Bad Man's attack, and relative newcomer Leah Cairns (who first appears in the film naked, brushing her teeth and holding one foot above her head, in what is either a yoga pose or an invitation) as the woman whom Dr. Jack Gramm makes forensic love to.

What unites all of these women is that, in the course of the movie, Al Pacino affectionately hugs, kisses, rubs against, pats and generally touches all of them. Repeatedly. It's really strange. He kisses his secretary on the lips, tackles Witt twice, holds Sobieski gently after she's attacked, and even hugs and kisses crime-victim Hui.

It's like Pacino walked into a Hollywood studio and said, "I would very much like to touch many beautiful young women. What can you do for me?" And they wrote him this movie.

Now, to be fair, in spite of the fact that Al Pacino is more than 1 million years old, he's a pretty good-looking guy. No one would confuse him for, say, Dustin Hoffman. Anymore. So I could see him getting action. It's just that he's taking whatever excuse is available to special-touch all these women. Most of them are not love interests. His secretary is even supposed to be gay. But there's grandpa Al Pacino, with the kissy-kissy.

I mean, it must be nice to be Al Pacino. You can just special-order a mediocre movie, put in women who are young enough to be your daughter and your granddaughter, and just touch the hell out of them. Sure, the film provides little in the way of entertainment for the masses, but they didn't make it for the masses. They made it for Al. And God bless you, Al. You enjoy that mediocre movie. You enjoy the hell out of it.