Hall of Fame Speech #8: 88 Minutes

Brief note before we start: last July we got together and worked out a second class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly seven years since we started BMT and the films we had seen more than five years ago, in some cases, deserved a rewatch and reassessment. Over the five weeks leading up to the fifth (seventh?) Smaddies Baddies we’ll bring you previews and Hall of Fame Speeches for the five films chosen. This is the thrid, for the un-thrilling psychological thriller 88 Minutes. The intention is to reminisce a bit about what we remember about the film, what we think of it now, and why it deserved a special place in BMT history. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for 88 Minutes

88 Minutes? Sounds like 87 minutes too much! In our second year with the BMT Hall of Fame we had a lot more of our lower-key BMT success stories. Does anyone remember 88 Minutes? Is it a famously terribly movie in its time? Coming off of the first Hall of Fame year, with its Battlefield Earths and Norbits, considered some of the worst films ever made, it would be understandable to scoff at what amounts to a one-man thriller starring a distinctly non-thrilled Al Pacino. But in a way this film captured our hearts long before BMT came along. Let’s get into what I remembered about this legend before the rewatch:

  • The main thing is that it is Al Pacino all day all the time. And. He. Does. Not. Give. A. Shit.
  • Ben McKenzie from The O.C. is in it, and as usual he is looking glorious.
  • Al Pacino’s hair looks like a bird’s nest. Some costume designer was like “yes, it looks very good Al, we need to get to set. We’re about to hit overtime for the guild members”.
  • My favorite part of the entire movie is when Pacino walks up to a cab driver and gives him some money to allow him to drive the cab. For the rest of the movie (effectively) Al Pacino is driving a cab while the cab driver visibly sits in the back of the car. It is bonkers and makes no sense, in addition to being supremely distracting.
  • When we were kids my brother would say “he got a guuuuuuuuun” in a funny voice. It is a line from the trailer (and movie), and it is the number one reason this film was on our radar from day one of BMT.
  • It stars Leelee Sobieski and Neal McDonough. If you know anything about the Bad Movie Twins, you know that we love us some Leelee and McDonough, and to have both of them in the same movie always made it a legendary choice.

The first and last are the most important from an overarching BMT perspective. This movie is a great example of a one-man-show. They designed the entire film around a strong protagonist, landed him (Al-fucking-Pacino!!), and then didn’t bother to do much of anything else. And it has maybe the best supporting cast in the history of a BMT film. I didn’t even remember if it is a good thriller, or just boring.

But in the end a huge part of it is the small moments that just stick with you. Him driving the cab, the fact that we’d know of this terrible film for years prior to actually watching it, the extreme setting of Seattle. It’s got it all, the large and small scale BMT successes. It was time for a rewatch.

Let’s get into how that rewatch went. First, unlike the first class of the Hall of Fame, it shouldn’t be surprising that some films in the second year is … less than. I love this film as a BMT film, but re-watching it I couldn’t help but wonder what people would say if I showed it to them. It isn’t very thrilling and tends to kind of sag in the middle while Al Pacino runs around like an idiot in a rainy Seattle. Norbit, Battlefield Earth, and The Wicker Man you kind of stare aghast at. They shock you. This just kind of makes you wonder aloud what it might look like if Al Pacino gave a shit. It didn’t lessen my opinion of it, all of the above points still stand. It is just the first Hall of Fame where the re-watch so starkly displayed how over time all of the other fluff falls away leaving a rosy pictures of the best-worst parts of a film.

Second, there was one aspect of the film that is still absolutely legendary which I didn’t quite remember: the direction. The entire movie has a weird story of Pacino’s little sister having been murdered by a serial killer when he was a young psychoanalyst. This is told exclusively through slow motion (washed out) flashbacks and (BMT trope alert) audio flashbacks! Here at BMT Media Empire HQ we love audio flashbacks. They signal so heavily the disdain for the audience’s ability to understand even basic storytelling elements, and always seem like a tacked on thing after some producer was like “wait, why does Al Pacino hate serial killers so much though …?” There are dutch angles, weird crane shots, and an airplane taking off that is laid over a shot in such a way that it (technically) takes place in both the past (nine years ago) and present, an event I specifically remember making the same joke about: “That plane took off for nine years”. The movie doesn’t really make much sense, and the root of that is because of the trick they tried to pull (88 minutes real time) and the fact that the director wasn’t up for it. Would the direction alone make it Hall of Fame? Naw, but …

The still stellar cast it puts it over the top. Al Pacino, Neal McDonough, and Leelee Sobieski combine to form a super team which makes it all worth it. Neal is ever present on television throughout and has an amazing meltdown at the end when he realizes the jig is up. Leelee as the ultimate vessel of the twist is just so obviously the bad guy it is almost mind-blowing when it happens. And Al Pacino … wanted another house I guess. Because he doesn’t care. And it is amazing.

Overall, I think this guy stands tall as a great example of the one-man-thriller. And while the film sags, it is saved by the direction and cast. It is probably the height of the low-to-mid-budget thriller for BMT at the time, and for a serial killer film I think it stands tall as a counter weight to its HoF inductee twin I Know Who Killed Me (which tends much more towards horror). Oh, and the part where he drives the taxi? I thought I had maybe imagined  it all. That you couldn’t see the driver in the back seat at all, but … nope, the driver is just sitting there like an idiot. It is awesome. He got a gun indeed. Welcome to the club 88 Minutes.

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