Movie Critique: “88 Minutes”

Seeing as I’ve been an avid movie fan and lover of music since my crawling days in the crib, I thought I’d add a lighter side to my blog site. I’d be happy to hear what readers have to say.

If it weren’t for the presence of mega star and fine actor, Al Pacino, 88 Minutes would probably make most of it’s money being sold at Wal-mart in one of the $1 bins.

Good movies are tough to find these days, as the motion picture market caters mainly to children and young adults which feature gore, extreme violence, terror, plethora of smashed cars and buildings, million-bullet shoot-em-ups, raw sex, garbage humor and animated stories. Such is where the money is. Once in a while, a fine drama emerges, wins an Academy Award, then flops at the box office.

The problem with 88 Minutes is not action, drama or suspense. It has plenty of that. It’s the sheer absence of plausibility to the point of being absurd.

In a nutshell: Al Pacino is a Forensic psychiatrist whose testimony helped put a sadistic killer on Death Row nine years earlier. Naturally, the killer professes his innocence as his date with death nears. Suddenly new murders begin to emerge throughout the city using the same modus operandi; young women hoisted upside down, raped, tortured and then killed. Pacino is brought into the scene immediately by the FBI to help investigate. That’s when he receives a phone threat by a garbled voice telling him, he has 88 minutes to live.

From there, Pacino runs around in a panic as a number of other women are found killed, including his girl friend, and gives orders to police, FBI and other resource agencies to check this and that. The suspense comes, trying to figure out if the guy in prison is actually innocent, and who is behind the new onslaught of murders. The FBI begins to think Pacino, himself, may be the guilty party.

Sure, I was a thirty-year cop and I tend to see the flaws in a police-thriller movie. But I’m also a fiction writer, and I can live with a few non-sensible coincidences and some unlikely scenes, because folks…it’s fiction. But not this.

First, In my sixteen years working murder cases in Miami, I know of no detectives that ever consulted with a forensic psychiatrist during a murder case, yet work side by side with him in the streets. It just doesn’t happen. Lawyers may use them at trial, usually the defense type, for their expert opinion. Second, if and when a private psychiatrist is involved in an investigation, he certainly is not privileged to bark orders at police supervisors as though he were in command of the field. Third, other than crimes that cross state lines or where the murder occurred on federal property, the FBI is not in charge of any city/county murder case. They are handled by the local police agencies. So, why is the FBI there at all? (Head shaking)

But this is the kicker. Nine years earlier, the first victim is found hanging as her twin sister abruptly stumbles on the killing scene. Ah, a witness. She tells the police that the room was dark, and she didn’t get a good look at the subject. In legal terms, that usually means: No I.D.

As it turns out, the evidence upon which this man was convicted, was — of all things — the twin sister’s identification (who didn’t get a good look him in the dark) and,(get this) the expert opinion of the psychiatrist who said he was positive this guy did the killing, though he had no other evidence other than a personality profile. Well, that’s pushing it. If any defendant was put on trial based on personality profiles and poor visibility identifications, he’d be freed on a directed verdict by the judge in a New York minute.

There were other stupidities in the picture, but I think you get the idea.

So, friends, if you just want some suspenseful entertainment that makes no sense, but you’re an addict for Al Pacino’s acting, go for it. If you still seek a smidgen of authenticity in a police story, don’t waste your money on 88 Minutes.