2015 - 88 minutes
Directed by: April Mullen
Written by: Tim Doiron
Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Christopher Lloyd, Tim Doiron, Michael Ironside, Jesse McCartney, Kyle Schmid
88 is an amalgam of late-‘90s Tarantino knockoffs and any number of movies featuring characters sorting out identity issues while on a quest for revenge – Christopher Nolan’s Memento an obvious influence. It immediately feels dated and brings nothing new to the personality puzzle box genre. Frenetic pacing and editing (trimmed to a tidy 88-minute runtime) keeps things moving along briskly enough and the alluring Katharine Isabelle is never a bore to watch, but 88 is just a passable diversion destined to be forgotten post-haste.
Open text defines “Fugue State,” wherein an individual disassociates from reality and can create a fractured or new identity, complete with made up memories and history, usually born from a traumatic event. For Gwen (Isabelle) that event is the murder of her beloved boyfriend (Kyle Schmid). When she gets her bearings inside a diner, she’s confused, missing a finger, and carrying a gun in her backpack. Bewildered, she accidently shoots a waitress and instinctively goes on the run, finding a room key for a seedy motel (room 88, of course) in her possession. In that room are newspaper clippings and photos that relate to gangster-type Cyrus (Christopher Lloyd), Gwen’s former employer. In flashbacks we see Gwen as “Flamingo,” a chain-smoking, milk-chugging killer that’s intent on hunting Cyrus down. Hence the Fugue State explanation.
Why is there a gun in her backpack? What about all those gumballs? How did she lose her finger? Why does the Flamingo persona chug milk? And so on. These are all addressed in time, but 88 fails to ponder the most important question of all: Why should we care about any of it?
Despite a spirited performance from Isabelle as both personas, the characters are all flimsy ciphers acting out the robotic screenplay by Tim Doiron. Doiron himself is one of the worst machinations, showing up as Ty, a sidekick for Flamingo/convenient method to get her out of multiple jams/great explainer who fills her (and us) in on necessary exposition. It also doesn’t help that his acting is even worse than his screenwriting. Lloyd, along with Michael Ironside as a Sherriff in pursuit of Flamingo and Ty, are underutilized as mostly information-divulgers.
Director April Mullen is also big on manufactured style over substance. Whenever there’s a switch between the perspectives of Gwen/Flamingo we get quickly edited flashes reminding us of where we left off, like a “previously on” segment of a TV show. It’s unnecessary because it’s not that hard to keep up with the straightforward, and also bland, plot even though it’s not presented linearly. There are 88 minutes with a story that can sustain about 30 minutes before becoming tedious. “88” is everywhere: addresses, room numbers, and the aforementioned runtime. Perhaps there’s even a nod to 88 in the casting of Lloyd, whose most famous role involved a DeLorean that did amazing things when it reached 88 miles per hour.