A particular brand of weirdness
Unusual and abstract, the oft confusing (and confused) 88 is a thriller of blood and plenty of skin. Dressed with the scripting idea of Fugue state, an erratic form of amnesic psychosis, 88 casts Katharine Isabelle as two people in the same mind for an unsteady revenge with an off and on cinematic intellectualism, if not the boundaries needed for clarity.
Centrally, the idea appears to flow from a snapshot idea – say an off the wall idea after scanning an article on the stated mental condition. From there seeps a plot. It’s a story of two competing sides of the same Fugue, one a killer recluse (known as Flamingo) and the other a frantic women without direction (Gwen). Somewhere in-between is a grouchy Christopher Lloyd and a dead lover which acts as 88’s only solid cornerstone.
88 is recklessly pretty despite the overwhelming stimuli. The effect of dueling sides in one mind is negotiated with volatile post production tricks, stitching together which side is currently in play with sketchy, pinpoint flashbacks before restarting on a new timeline. It’s aggressive and heavily disorienting on purpose. Katharine Isabelle is lurid and terrified at different junction points, or as delirious as 88 needs her to be.
… between the visual shock & awe, 88 has some bite.
The film is drenched in metaphorical stimuli. The title, for instance, is all over. Room numbers, double eight balls, addresses, and with a smile, the runtime is sharply 88-minutes. There is also milk and gumballs and sentimental pictures; 88 is almost disturbed by the idea of settling down into exposition, using these instead. Best to lay it out, successfully or otherwise, in hopes that audiences pull it together apparently.
Someways it works, even if the revealing end turns out to be too exposed in preliminary plot points. The end game jolt is only a jolt to Flamingo/Gwen and not as structurally sound as it should be. This is more of a film about the journey rather than the stopping point, and between the visual shock & awe, 88 has some bite. Snippets of smart dialog overwrite the Stupid cops chasing this criss-crossing crew of generally bad people across an unspecified city.
88 is a misfit film, grungy, rugged, and often perpetuating the nasty. It’s uncomfortable and weird, tackling its gimmicky mental games with undoubtedly unique flair if not always the cleanest execution. Isabelle is able to salvage many of the misses and the overarching artistry of visual disarray is enough to engage.
Sharp digital cinematography pairs with a Millennium Blu-ray encode, given enough space to keep each shot free of general imperfections. Well, except for one moment of banding. Some noise too. But otherwise, the compression work excels to remain inconspicuous during the brief runtime.
88 uses all manner of styles and palettes. Colors bounce between shots, ranging from total splashes of reds to super saturation to dulled and gray. Consistency would not make sense for 88’s needs. The off/on approach to color application is tightly tied to narrative leaps too, making it an important indicator of where the script currently sits.
All of the best qualities carry into fidelity, picking up on facial definition with some remarkable exterior shots. Those establishing views resolve grass, brick, and more as needed without an ounce of flicker despite their complexity. Lighting schemes keep contrast heavy and revealing of sharp detail. And black levels? They’re often stunning too. Something had to be dependable.
Audio design flattens the piece a bit, whether budgetary-based or some other reason. High levels of gunfire are dormant, cutting through the front soundstage’s width, but passing out before reaching the surrounds. Dimension is squelched before the film is even underway and keeps begging for some LFE which won’t be found.
Stranger still, there is little attempt to branch anywhere. Music, which offers deadened low-end support, feels rushed without mastering playing up vocals or instrumentals. A strip club has pale ambiance which feels utterly empty despite a visible crowd sitting under speakers blaring songs. This TrueHD track never feels alive.
While a short “making of” is mere filler, a behind-the-scenes piece (at almost 40-minutes) is better than most. Not only is it detailed, the information is interesting and on-set footage is revealing. Cast and crew are often candid once past the usual pleasantries.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.