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88 Blu-ray Review

88 Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com 88
Movie & Blu-ray Disc Details

Director: April Mullen / Writer: Tim Doiron

Cast: Katharine Isabelle (Gwen/Flamingo), Christopher Lloyd (Cyrus Bruwin), Tim Doiron (Ty), Kyle Schmid (Aster Carmichael), Michael Ironside (Sheriff Edward Knowles), Jesse McCartney (Samuel "Winks" Winston), April Mullen (Lemmy), Anthony Ulc (Jessop), Mickey Moon (Brandon "Izzy" Sales), Michael Orr (Dushane Lipincott), Dax Ravina (Charlie Cage)

Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

2.40:1 Widescreen / Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 6, 2015 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($19.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

Buy 88 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

The movie 88 opens with some facts about fugue state. At some time, one in 2,000 people experience the condition that is characterized by amnesia, disorientation and hallucinations and usually prompted by trauma. "Breaking Bad" fans will remember that early in Season 2
Walter White faked a fugue state as the perfect way out of a jam while keeping his criminal second life a secret.

The protagonist of 88 is apparently in the midst of a fugue state. This young woman (played by Katherine Isabelle), known as Gwen, Gwenny, and Flamingo to different people, opens the movie in a roadside diner. Her hand bloodied and wrapped, Gwen is about to be served a big breakfast, when her backpack falls and out spill gumballs and a gun. She accidentally shoots a waitress before running outside, easily eluding four of the world's most inept cops, who are having their regular meal there.

The movie unfolds with a jumbled chronology intended to simulate Gwen/Flamingo's confused mental state. Yes, this is basically the trashy, chixploitation version of Christopher Nolan's Memento, complete with one of the same big twists.

In "88", Gwen (Katharine Isabelle) hasn't been herself lately.

Gwen's predicament is a puzzle we're piecing together with her. Her only living ally appears to be Ty (Tim Doiron, the film's screenwriter and weakest actor), a man whose motives are slowly revealed. Gwen only knows that she is out for revenge against Cyrus Brunwin (Christopher Lloyd), a longtime father figure who's in the drug trade and allegedly killed her boyfriend (Kyle Schmid, in frenetic flashbacks).

The number 88 recurs as Gwen digs deeper into her trauma and mystery. She finds a key to that room number at the Starlight Inn down the road a bit. Also recurring: milk. Multiple men let it spill from their mouths in apparent hallucinations. Also, Gwen drinks the stuff by the jug. It's part of her tough girl act, which is reinforced by the fact that she's always smoking and has constantly wet hair.

It is not often a single actor gets to carry a movie, let alone a young woman and an action movie. Isabelle is no stranger to lead roles; she starred in the 2012 horror movie American Mary. But her very long resume is comprised of big parts in fringe productions and bit parts in more mainstream works, from Nolan's Insomnia to recurring stints on TV's "Hannibal" and "Being Human." The actress does about as much as she can with material that is ludicrous more often than not. Her performance, which requires a lot of underwear and cleavage but no nudity, is less responsible for the film's amateurish feel than Doiron's poor script and the over-direction by April Mullen (hey, at least "they" let a woman direct!). One of the most glaring problems is this: who can sympathize with a killer of innocent people, even a killer who has been wronged?

Cyrus Brunwin (Christopher Lloyd) is confronted in the climax of the nonlinear action thriller "88." Ty (screenwriter Tim Doiron) becomes Gwen/Flamingo's partner in crime.

If you're entering 88 looking for something bad and campy, then you are sure to zero in on the scene when Gwen enters a convenience store called "Sam's Milk 'N' Smokes" and proceeds to trim her hair, urinate on the floor, change her clothes, and crack open a cold jug of milk to the teenage clerk's flustering. The movie knows that such a scene will prompt laughter, but its other attempts at comedy, like a quirky gun vendor named Lemmy (the director in a bikini top) who is strict about keeping business and leisure separate, fall flat.
An example of ambiguous intentions is the fact that everyone shoots guns with poor accuracy, which may make sense for Gwen but less so for law officers. Is that the joke?

It is sad that Lloyd, the man who played the deuteragonist in one of the greatest films and one of the greatest sequels of all time, either has to or chooses to make movies this bad. Now in his late seventies, he is working a lot, but mostly on things that are completely obscure and sound regrettable (e.g. Oogieloves). I guess Back to the Future nostalgia only goes so far, as Left Behind's Lea Thompson and Open Season 3's Crispin Glover can attest to.

Though it supposedly opened in UK theaters on New Year's Eve (it almost certainly did not), 88 went straight to DVD and Blu-ray in North America on the first Tuesday of 2015. It seems only a matter of time before you find it on clearance racks, assuming you can find it at all.

VIDEO and AUDIO

With their cropping phase gladly behind them, Millennium Entertainment has come to be as competent at Blu-ray transfers as any studio, even if they don't allow their films the high bitrates others do. 88's 2.40:1 picture is sharp and stylish. The default Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is active, consistent, and perfectly satisfactory. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are offered.

Christopher Lloyd gets a big birthday card from the cast and crew to celebrate his 75th. Director-producer-actress April Mullen describes the film's jumbled chronology in the condensed making-of featurette.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

88 is joined by two generically-titled HD bonus features.

"88: Behind the Scenes" (37:29) is a full-fledged documentary. A mix of talking heads and fly-on-set footage gives us many specifics regarding the 20-day, 2D Niagara Falls Canadian shoot. The enthusiastic filmmakers and cast seem really interested in describing and documenting their work as if people are going to care. At least they elaborate on certain triggers that the movie itself doesn't make so clear.

The condensed "Making Of" (3:14) is a more digestible short that also finds cast and crew speaking from the sets in between some of the same behind-the-scenes footage.

A Previews submenu provides easy access to the disc-opening HD trailers for Reach Me, Automata, By the Gun, and Good People. Uncharacteristically for the studio, no 88 trailer is included (though one has since turned up on the studio's other releases).

The menu loops a montage of intense clips. The Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback, but does not let you set bookmarks on the film.

The insert-less keepcase is topped by a glossy slipcover.

This shot of a blank-eyed, fugue state Flamingo (Katharine Isabelle) opens and closes the film and has the end credits scroll down it.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As you can probably surmise from the cover artwork, 88 isn't a great movie. It's stupid, it's violent, and its creativity is largely devised from Memento. But hey, if you're in the mood for a nonlinear "mindbender" with cleavage and Christopher Lloyd, I'm not sure you'll do better than this.

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Reviewed March 26, 2015.



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