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Shallow Al

Movies | Pacino vehicle is a boring, violent display of misogyny

Issue: "Food fight," May 3, 2008

Someone wants to kill Al Pacino. Or it could be several people. Or it could be legions of angry moviegoers who are $10 poorer and 10 IQ points dumber after watching his phoned-in performance in Jon Avnet's woman-hating, boring new crime movie.

Like the Tommy Lee Jones-chase-the-fugitive movie, the Al Pacino-crazy-mentor movie has become a mini-genre. There's The Devil's Advocate, The Recruit, Two for the Money, Scent of a Woman, and now 88 Minutes. These films vary from year to year: Sometimes the young buck questioning Pacino's grizzled authority is blond; sometimes he's brunette. Once, he was that guy from The Matrix. Now, Pacino's junior partner is a woman, the lovely Alicia Witt, one of many grade A actors in this film (along with Leelee Sobieski, Neal McDonough, and William Forsyth) who should know better.

The movie follows a hotshot forensic psychiatrist (Pacino) whose testimony may have sent the wrong man (McDonough) to death row for murdering (with loving attention from the camera-why, yes, it is rated R) a series of beautiful, partially unclad women in a humiliating and evil way, which is shown to us, over and over again, in a series of drooling flashbacks. As a footnote, the corpses of these poor souls are, without exception, wearing lingerie.

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It's hard to tell what, if anything, Avnet is trying to say: The film could be a giggling valentine to the death penalty, or it could just be about the screenwriter's misogyny. Either way, it plumbs the depths of the filmmakers' ignorance on subjects ranging from cellular phones to gravity for nearly two hours, and by the time the credits roll, it still hasn't found the bottom. Rent The Asphalt Jungle or read a James Ellroy novel and save yourself some frustration.

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