Starring Katharine Isabelle and Christopher Lloyd. Rated 14A.
Even if 88 doesn’t really work, it’s hard to fault the ADD-addled film for its ambition. Forget telling a linear tale—the Canadian-made production asks the audience to piece together the story as it machine-guns back and forth between past and present.
Fittingly, 88’s main character, Gwen (cult queen Katharine Isabelle), also has no idea what the hell’s going on. She’s Gwen when the guns aren’t drawn, and Flamingo whenever shit gets heavy. One minute, Gwen/Flamingo is shooting up a small-town diner and spilling a rainbow of gumballs from her purse. The next, she’s spooning with a sensitive beardo who probably listens to Bon Iver, this perhaps illustrating she isn’t a natural-born killer.
Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd is menacingly over the top (and not always in a good way) as Cyrus, a gangster running some nameless town that looks suspiciously like the bowels of northern Ontario. Director April Mullen is a crazed rural gun dealer named Lemmy, her caricature of a performance evidently inspired (in a bad way) by True Romance–edition Gary Oldman.
As a skittish low-rent accomplice, screenwriter Tim Doiron seems unsure if he’s in a comedy or a doom-generation shoot-’em-up.
Appealing as she can be during the film’s less frenetic moments, Isabelle also has trouble getting the tone of Gwen/Flamingo right, which makes sense, considering she’s supposed to be in a trauma-induced fugue state.
Her challenge is piecing together fractured memories amidst implausible farmland gun battles with police, bowling-alley shootouts, and sleazy-motel fights.
Director Mullen has plenty of style, even if she doesn’t know when to ease off on the oversaturated red lighting and slo-mo shots of spilled milk. But once the head-scratching is over, you’ll find yourself thinking it’s been done better by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan.
Still, those are pretty big names to emulate. As much as the final payoff doesn’t seem worth the time invested, at least no one can say 88 doesn’t shoot high.