I suppose that I'm going to give this routine movie far more coverage
than I should. There are two reasons for this.
First, it represents an unfortunate milestone in the career of Al
Pacino. Although he has made worse movies (Gigli comes to mind), this
will mark his first film to go straight to video. According to MSN
the film is already available for pre-order on a full-screen DVD
in that country, with a street date of February 14th.
Second, there is almost no online information
available about this film, and what is available is inaccurate! For
example, this site
has a detailed summary, which bears only a passing resemblance to the
actual film as seen in the current DVD screener.
The discrepancy between the
two versions can be explained either by re-shoots or by the fact that
the Soray site based its review on a script rather than a screening. I
can't say. I do know that there were some re-shoots. The shoot was slated
to begin in August, 2004 with a budget in the $20s. I'm not sure
whether they started on time, but the original filming was completed
in December of 2005, when the film was assigned a tentative theatrical
release date of October, 2006. It was screened for Warner execs in
August of 2006. I'm not sure why the decisions were made, but the
theatrical release was then cancelled or postponed and the cast was
called back for re-shooting in October of 2006.
In the following comparison of
the two versions, I have assumed that the author from the Soray
Intercine site really did see an earlier cut of the film and
summarized it accurately, but I do not know that to be the case, nor
do I do not know whether that site is reliable, nor when the author
saw the film, if at all. The existing
film still does include strong traces of the version he describes, but
those don't have to be derived from earlier footage. They may simply
be vestiges of an early draft of the script.
I have tried to avoid spoiling
the current plot, so I've restricted my comments to explanations of
what does NOT occur rather than what does. Despite my efforts, there
are some elements which get "spoiled" by my comments about the script
revisions. You'll still have to figure out whether Pacino himself was
involved in the recent killings, and you'll still have to figure out
who is threatening to kill him in 88 minutes.
The site's summary.
The current version
Star witness JACK GRAMM wakes up after a one-night stand with
defense attorney SUSAN COPELAND.
|Jack wakes up next to a woman
named Sara Pollard. She is not a defense attorney. In fact, she
is a professional escort who later becomes a key element in an
attempt to frame Jack for murder. The apartment was filled with
law books, probably from 2005 footage shot for the earlier
version, so Pacino says, "I thought you said you weren't a
lawyer." She replies, "I'm not, YET."
As JACK leaves her apartment, ANDREW TURK watches
in the action, but the character of Andrew Turk is now called
Guy LaForge. There doesn't seem to be any good reason to change
the names of Copeland and Turk to Pollard and LaForge.
On his way to class, JACK's told by FBI
man FRANK PIERCE that there's a copycat murderer imitating JON
FORSTER, a killer who was put on death row with the help of JACK's
testimony. JON asks JACK to look at crime scene photos, and
although reluctant, he agrees.
On Columbia's campus, where JACK is a teacher,
several students, including LAURA DOUGLAS confront JACK over his
failing them in his class. After LAURA flirts with him, JACK
offers all of them a chance to make up the grade. LAURA gives
him her home address. JACK then runs into KIM KENT, who
complains about her C grade, but JACK says if she hadn't slept
with him he would have failed her.
has basically eliminated the thread about the bad grades and
Jack's exchange of grades for sex. Some remaining dialogue
refers to him as an "impossibly difficult" professor, but this
has no bearing on the plot.
Kim has been upgraded from student to
graduate assistant. The film takes place at the fictional NWU in
Seattle, not at Columbia University or The University of British
Columbia. (It was filmed in British Columbia.)
In class, MIKE STAMP, another student, argues
with JACK over the concept of free will and how it applies to
the distinction between sanity and insanity. JACK then gets a
phone call during class, with a distorted voice announcing,
"You've got 88 minutes to live."
JACK recognizes that whoever is making
the calls is doing it from inside the classroom, and he
frantically examines various student's cell phones until a fire
drill interrupts him. With the hall emptying out, JACK sees
another message on the chalkboard: "You have 82 minutes to
live."; The dean, CAROL ANN JOHNSON, another one of JACK's
amorous trysts, tells JACK that he should report the threat to
essentially unchanged except for some minor elements.
While talking with his assistant about FORSTER's handwriting analysis, JACK's cell phone explodes.
explosion has been eliminated. Jack simply drops the phone on
the stairs and breaks it.
races off to his car, only to find all four tires slashed.
been changed. Given the re-shoot, it had to be. The change is
that the tires are not slashed, thus correcting what would have
been a critical plot hole in which the supposedly undriveable
car gets out of the parking garage and appears on the street a
few minutes later! In the revision, Jack finds the car to be
merely vandalized and tells his teaching assistant to drive it
up to the street, thus explaining how it got there in subsequent
scenes. She later makes a point of saying something like, "Car's
working fine. It's up on the street."
The remaining problem is that the killer
has vandalized the car and written "72 minutes to live" on the
trunk with a finger. This introduced a massive gap in the film's
logic. The timing of the phone calls can be explained because
the killer was going to kill Jack at 11:45, and each of the
calls simply counted down the number of minutes until that time.
Some of the calls were made live, and some were pre-recorded by
the killer and delivered at a specific time so that Pacino would
eliminate from suspicion the person he was then talking to. In
each case, however, the caller simply reported the number of
minutes until 11:45.
In the case of the car message, however,
the killer had no way to know precisely when Pacino would pass
it, or even whether he would use it at all.
On his way to campus security, MIKE STAMP
confronts JACK about FORSTER, saying that without JACK's testimony,
wouldn't be on death row.
While in security, JACK receives
another threat, and LAURA comes in claiming she was robbed and
lost her phone. JACK tries to get a cab, but realizes he has no
cash, so he goes to an ATM, where his card is declined. He meets
KIM there, and notices she has a handgun, which she claims is
unloaded, but needed to protect herself from her ex-boyfriend,
who is a stalker. When JACK realizes he's the only one Kim has
slept with and that her ex threatened to kill anyone she slept
with, he asks her to come with him to his apartment. JACK
receives more countdown threats, and his doorman tells him
someone suspicious was at his apartment.
changes. The ATM/cab scenario has been eliminated.
Kim and Jack drive to the apartment in
Jack's car, which has somehow mysteriously become unvandalized.
I guess this has to do with the various versions of the script
not matching up perfectly.
Inside, JACK looks over the crime scene photos, and
examines KIM's purse, only to find her gun is loaded.
loaded/unloaded clue has been eliminated. In the earlier
version, Kim was the killer, and the wife of the death row
convict, so this all made sense, but it had to be eliminated
when the rewrite created a new killer and made Kim an ally.
The change in Kim's allegiance also created
a stretch of credibility in the script. In the original script,
Kim was the killer, and the wife of the death row inmate, so it
made some sense that her ex-boyfriend was also in prison with
her husband. In the rewrite, with Kim now Jack's ally, it seems
unlikely that the stalker ex-boyfriend would somehow have a
connection to the death row inmate. This is not actually a plot
hole, but rather a truly improbable coincidence.
his assistant to get the FBI involved, but before that happens,
there are shots through his apartment door. JACK kills the
person on the other side of the door, who turns out to be ANDREW
TURK, Kim's ex.
ex-boyfriend continues to be a red herring, but in the latest
version he is not shot by Jack. The boyfriend acts all macho and
possessive at Jack's door, but he is actually shot by the real
killer, who just happens to be there in the hall, armed to the
teeth. (And who doesn't really seem to have any motivation to
kill the ex-boyfriend.)
much fuss as the film makes about the security in Jack's
apartment building, it sure seems to be easy for armed strangers
to get into his hallway.
Strangely and confusingly enough, the
real killer and the ex-boyfriend both wear motorcycle helmets
When JACK's building has a fire evacuation
emergency, JACK drags Kim to Susan's apartment, where he finds
except that Susan is now called Sara, as mentioned earlier.
Susan is now discovered dead at the 75 minute mark, and the
remaining 32 minutes do not match up with the description at
KIM runs from JACK, who follows her
back to campus because she's leaked that the students are behind
this project in order to get him to reconsider failing them.
CAROL ANN, the Dean, is involved in the conspiracy, but she
tires to call it off when JACK confronts her, but KIM shoots her
and tries to frame JACK for her murder.
this happens in the revised version.
The dean is not part of the conspiracy,
but is forced at gunpoint to pretend she is telephonically. She
is not shot by Kim. Remember Kim is now Jack's ally.
The "failing grade" sub-text has been
eliminated in general, and Kim is no longer a student. Even more
important, Kim is no longer the killer. The combination of these
circumstances created a major problem in this scene: there is
now simply no reason for Kim to mysteriously disappear from
Jack's side at the dead girl's apartment. If she's his friend,
why would she do that?
It seems that all this happened toward
the end of the film in the original scenario, but in the
existing version there are many additional scenes in which the
film enters completely into rewrite territory and becomes more
like Crank, with Jack (Pacino) frantically racing against the
clock, dodging explosions, avoiding time-wasters, running up
stairs, and shoulder-rolling with the best of them. He's not
Jason Statham, but he moves pretty well for a little old guy.
In this section, Jack's car is blown up
in the street. If you think about it, that makes no sense. The
killer was already in the process of arranging an elaborate
scheme to kill Jack at 11:45. Why, then, blow up his car and
(probably) him as well at 11:00? Of course, you can apply the
same logic to the killer's having earlier appeared at Jack's
apartment with guns blazing! Are you gonna kill the guy BEFORE
11:45? If so, why the elaborate plot with the phone calls.
In the original script, as described to
the left, there were no earlier attempts on Jack's life, which
makes more sense, given the killer's stated intention to kill
Jack at exactly 11:45.
Jack survives the car explosion, but he
is a suspect in two murders, so he has to prevent an FBI agent
and student Mike Stamp from wasting his time so he can make an
appointment with the killer, who is holding two of his friends
hostage and will kill them if Jack is not there by 11:45.
The lengthy confrontation with the
(revised) killer is obviously completely new material.
JACK attends FORSTER's execution,
where KIM and MIKE are witnesses. The FBI arrests KIM, who
turns out to be FORSTER's wife. FORSTER was actually behind the plot to
kill JACK in order to exact his revenge on JACK. When
FORSTER is finally executed, JACK is there and gets the
satisfaction of letting FORSTER know his plan has
been dramatically rewritten because Kim is no longer the killer.
So who is the killer? Hey, I've already told
you some of the people who did not do it. You'll have to sift
through the rest on your own.
The original version of the film supposedly ran 122 minutes.
The revision is 107. If the Soray summary is about the early cut, then
everything after the 71-minute mark of the latest version would be new footage, and some of the
earlier footage would also be revised material. That would mean that only
about half of the original footage remains in the film intact. I am
inclined to think that is NOT the case. Industry scuttlebutt says that the re-shoots were
limited and did not involve Pacino at all. Therefore, we probably
should assume that the Soray summary describes a script rather than
an earlier cut.
Either way, the existing film is completely unfocused. The editor did
a decent job of putting it together without too many gaps in logic,
but there are certainly some confusing elements. Some are noted in
the summaries above. Another is a confusing flip-flop on the name of
the death-row inmate, who is sometimes called Forster with two
syllables, and sometimes Forester with three.
The following problem is
probably unrelated to re-shooting. I suppose it is just sloppy
continuity. Note that Pacino is standing about five feet farther to
the left in the wide shot than in the close-up.
Bottom line: I'm sorry to say
that the film is only watchable because of Pacino's presence, and
even then only barely so. Without him it's a typical straight-to-vid
thriller and absolutely nothing more.