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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 11.63%
Average: 4.65%
Pretty Bad: 18.6%
Total Crap65.12%

5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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88 Minutes
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by Erik Childress

"Al Pacino...IS...Dr. Kavorka"
1 stars

88 Minutes purports to be one of those “real-time” thrillers like John Badham’s Nick of Time or TV’s 24 where everything that’s happening is on the rigid clock of life and there’s no stopping the big hand. These gimmick projects depend on that manipulation of time keeping the viewer curious enough to check their own watch to see how close the film is to being done. (Like Vegas, the luxury of a clock in our screening room is notably absent.) Combined with a D.O.A.-like premise of a man being given the precise hour and minute of his own demise, all 88 Minutes needs to do is to not be boring for it to either pleasantly distract audiences looking for a quick thrill or to slink into DVD shelf obscurity somewhere between 8 Seconds and 100 Girls in the All-Genre-Mixed video store. Not only is that not a feat 88 Minutes can pull off, but it strains new levels of absurdity through a rampant dose of misogyny. And mind you, this is coming from a guy who saw Zombie Strippers in the same week.

The Recruit’s Al Pacino stars as Dr. Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist who is more like a rock star. Having examined such heavy-hitters like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, Gramm can now afford to be partying late nights with a bevy of young babes, many of whom belong to his class at a local university. Gramm’s latest star making case, the “Seattle Slayer”, has put Jon Forster (Neil McDonough) on death row. Forster maintains his innocence but Gramm’s immediate answers to his pleas range from the psychological (“No”) to the philosophical (“C’mon!”) On his last day though, a wrinkle forms when a new body is found with the same M.O. Even worse it’s one of Jack’s students and there’s some indecision from Gramm’s bud, FBI agent Frank Parks (William Forsythe), over whether or not it’s just a copycat.

On his way to class this morning, Jack gets a phone call telling him he’s got 88 minutes to live. Seemingly able to pull more law enforcement resources together than J. Edgar Hoover, Jack immediately has his trusty assistant, Shelly (Amy Brenneman) run a trace on his last call while he tries to go about his day. This killer is also resourceful and persistent though and not only keeps calling but providing updates on Jack’s death clock by placing messages on his classroom projector and his car. After a bomb threat is called in, Jack is free to flee the grounds and take up refuge in his apartment where he can spend time grinding the film to a dead halt.

With a premise that requires suspended animation of disbelief, it’s director needs to be prepared to just go full steam ahead, never looking back and only allowing the little details of plausibility to haunt us later like a Vietnam flashback. Precisely what you expect from Jon Avnet, auteur of Fried Green Tomatoes and Up Close & Personal, right? Even the killer decides to give up on their own premise, frontloading their countdown tactics and then, perhaps, realizing that they have about sixteen other duties to multi-task in about an hour, gives Frank some breathing room only to reintroduce the time element in the final act by telling others to provide him with new “ten minute” deadlines. Just once I would have liked Jack to look at his watch and yell out that the killer is two minutes off.

Avnet’s handling of the material is beyond lazy, keeping it a pacing slow enough to allow him 88 shots of potential suspects looking all shady out of Jack’s vision. They include Kim (Alicia Witt), Jack’s T.A. who has a crush on him and a psychotic ex-boyfriend with the “clue one to a bad relationship” name of Guy LaForge. Lauren Douglas (Leelee Sobieski) is the star student who also has a run-in with a LaForge in a stairwell. There’s the hooker (Leah Cairns) Jack went home with the night before that likes to brush her teeth in a position many of the Slayer’s victims are found. Even the university Dean (Deborah Kara Unger) has carried a fascination for Jack that is somewhat inappropriately brought up during the bomb threat. The only reason Brenneman’s assistant has for not taking a shot at Jack is that she’s a lesbian; a character trait that has only one reason for existing. Hell, even Witt’s last name in the film is Cummings.

Sporting a do that recalls Joseph Bologna in Transylvania 6-5000, Pacino’s Dr. Kavorka may have come so hard with the hooker his hair damn near exploded. Or maybe his coiffe is a metaphor for how absolutely crazy the plotting gets including substituting the gimmick of Gramm’s time left on Earth for a direct correlation to a crime from his past; an invention that DTV sequelator Gary Scott Thompson (Timecop 2, Hollow Man II, parts two & three of K-9) introduces as an excuse for both the slow-down in the action and an epilogue on capital punishment that may be the most laughably serious conclusion since Steven Seagal went on about fossil fuels in On Deadly Ground. Once the chips are all on the table the variance of questions that Thompson & Avnet could have got at a savvy Q&A session would have been priceless.

- Would a stay of execution really be granted LIVE based on a bad MSNBC interview?
- Did a bad guy with a motorcycle really need to fake a story to get a ride from Gramm?
- Doesn’t blowing up Gramm’s car throw a wrench into the killer’s time plot and the opportunity to explain everything later?
- What was the budget?
- Are women really that susceptible to convicted rapists?
- Was the creepy doorman in Pacino’s building really trying to be Ethan Hawke?
- Why’d it take three years for your film to show in America?

Actually the answer to that last question is pretty clear, but the better one would be how all this talent signed on for it in the first place. Perhaps they saw potential in a slick thriller that would combine a platform for a discussion on capital punishment they strongly believed in with a nice, fat paycheck. 88 Minutes is filled with one amateurishly staged scene after another. My favorite is the “he’s got a gun” moment where nobody does anything and Pacino seems unclear in the direction on whether he’s supposed to conceal it or not. At times it’s almost like Pacino has been lured into a Bobby Bowfinger production except the best blackmail material around to get his permission for release is 88 Minutes itself.

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originally posted: 04/18/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

9/23/17 danR Brutalizedwith a 17% Metascore, I seem to recall the movie as a fair time-passer. Whatev 4 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell decent no more no less 3 stars
7/30/14 D. The R. Someone should have handed Pacino a Tanto and said "Do the honorable thing." 1 stars
4/16/14 Charles Tatum The funniest film of the year! 1 stars
11/27/09 harry lime the film is not good but the climatic ending is one of the worst ever 2 stars
12/02/08 mr.mike I disagree with the critics - "Revolution" is still his career nadir. 3 stars
10/23/08 Indrid Cold Leelee Sobieski as Saw-style evil puppet master? Yes, it's as ludicrous as it sounds. 2 stars
9/21/08 Steven James Parker Well the movie is pretty good! It's not the best thriller but still worth a look! 4 stars
6/26/08 Jenny Tullwartz From the start, I never bought into Lydia/Lauren's innocent victim ploy. 4 stars
5/08/08 sally Worth a look: Why? Because the reviews are crazy funny, and true! 4 stars
4/21/08 Jeff Anderson Maddeningly inept, ugly & terrible! Arguably & truly Pacino's worst, but who's to argue! 1 stars
4/19/08 Renee I Really Liked this movie 4 stars
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  18-Apr-2008 (R)
  DVD: 16-Sep-2008


  DVD: 16-Sep-2008

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