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Overall Rating
1.63

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

5 reviews, 13 user ratings



88 Minutes
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Ho-Hum Hoo-Ah!"
1 stars

It is no secret that throughout his long and reasonably distinguished career, Al Pacino has made the occasional dog movie that does nothing but squander his amazing gifts. That said, even those these particular films were atrocious, they were, for the most part, ambitious failures made by talented people who were at least trying to make something good and you could understand Pacino’s rationale for signing on to them—to stretch his acting muscles by tackling genres that he hadn’t previously delved into before (such as the romantic melodrama of “Bobby Deerfield” or the family comedy of “Author, Author”), to work with an acclaimed Oscar-winning director on a project that sounded good on paper (Hugh Hudson’s “Revolution”) or to tackle the kind of broad and showy role, complete with physical affliction, that would allow him to finally win a long-overdue Best Actor Oscar (“Scent of a Woman”). However, while he may have made worse films over the years, (“Revolution” is the kind of woozy career-killing auteurist debacle that even I can’t come around to defending), I don’t think that he has ever appeared in one as pointless and lazy and sheerly inexplicable as “88 Minutes,” the kind of depressingly banal mystery-thriller where there thrills are nowhere to be seen and the only real mysteries involve wonder how it could have possibly avoided the direct-to-DVD fate that it seemed destined for (especially when you consider that is how this long-on-the-shelf item premiered throughout most of the rest of the world and that it has been available for viewing on-line for a while) and why Pacino would have chosen to lend his talents to a project on an artistic level that most people would more readily associate with the likes of Michael Pare about ten years ago or Robert De Niro these days.

Pacino plays Dr. Jack Gramm, a hard-drinking and womanizing professor of forensic psychologist at a Seattle college who maintains a sideline in offering expert testimony in sensational murder trials. As the film opens, Jon Forster (Neil McDonough), man who was convicted of several gruesome torture killings on a case based entirely on circumstantial evidence and Gramm’s own testimony, is scheduled to be executed but when Gramm wakes up that morning, nursing a massive hangover after a night of partying with women way too young for him, he discovers that the Seattle Slayer, a serial killer whose modus operandi follows the one allegedly used by Forster, has struck again and that the accused is trying to use this information to win a stay of execution on the basis that the real killer was never caught and that Gramm lied on the stand. Under normal circumstances, this would be a bad enough way to start the day but it gets worse when Gramm is informed that the victim was a colleague (you know what I mean) and was one of the people with him during the previous evening’s activities. Then, to top things off, Gramm receives a mysterious call on his cell phone informing him that he has only 88 minutes left to live. (In case you are wondering why the caller didn’t just call two minutes earlier so as to get a rounder number, the timeframe involves some long-buried trauma from Gramm’s past that, like so many other things here, doesn’t really add up to much of anything in the end.)

Clearly, someone out there is trying to either kill Gramm, frame him for murder or force him to admit that he may have offered perjured testimony in the Forster case. Why yes, now that you mention it, there is a large pool of potential suspects for him to choose from. There is Kim (Alicia Witt), the cute grad student who serves as Gramm’s TA while nursing a not-so-secret crush on him. There is Shelly (Amy Brenneman), the faithful girl Friday who might find herself nursing a crush on him as well if it weren’t for the unfortunate fact that she is a lesbian, a character trait that is unveiled with all the subtlety of a sitcom character accidentally blurting out the details of a surprise party. There is Carol (Deborah Kara Unger), whose presence is barely explained (I think she is some kind of school administrator) except to suggest that she too is nursing a crush on him. There is Mike (Benjamin McKenzie), a student of Gramm’s whose entire academic approach seems to consist of needling him with the kind of questions and comments that one normally doesn’t insist on imposing upon someone who has yet to grade him. Finally, there is Lauren (Leelee Sobieski), whose academic approach is pretty much the same as Mike, though she is able to get away with it largely because she looks like Leelee Sobieski. (Now that I think about it, I believe there are also a couple of crazy exes running around as well but I suspect that you will forget about them about as quickly as the screenplay and I both managed to do.)

In a film of this type, the easiest way to go about ferreting out the killer is to find out which character seems to be the most extraneous and pointless to the story at hand—nine times out of ten, that seemingly innocuous person turns out to be the villain. (This approach was taken to its illogical extremes in the otherwise great Clint Eastwood thriller “Tightrope” when the bad guy showed himself at last and turned out to be someone that we had never seen before up until that moment.) In that regard, Gary Scott Thompson’s screenplay makes things a little more challenging by ensuring that every single character—even our hero—comes across as extraneous and pointless. Perhaps this approach was taken in order to disguise the fact that not a single bit of this story makes any sense at all, even by the lowball standards of your typical crackpot thriller. (Even the infamous Lindsay Lohan vehicle “I Know Who Killed Me,” a film that persist in almost admiring because of its utter insanity, comes across as more coherent than this one and that movie contained a stripper with a robot hand.) The film huffs and puffs in an effort to demonstrate that gripping events are taking place but neither the ridiculous story twists nor director Jon Avnet’s attempts at breakneck pacing are ever able to convince us for a moment that there is anything exciting going on. Even the 88 minute hook, which sound like it is going to inspire one of those breakneck real-time thrillers a la “Nick of Time” or “24,” is barely exploited for most of the running time and almost completely forgotten by the end.

Instead, we are two busy being distracted by sequences so ludicrous that they almost seem like they belong in a genre parody from the “Airplane!” guys—in my favorite, Kim, despite knowing that Gramm supposedly has less than an hour to live, nevertheless starts buttonholing him with questions about why he never got married and even inquires “Don’t you want kids?” Then there is the inevitable finale scene where the killer is unmasked and the reasons behind their actions are finally revealed—without giving away too much, I will say that it starts off bad and quickly becomes so ridiculous that even the “Airplane!” guys might have scotched it for being too silly. Then there is the moment when Kim freaks out at the sight of a dead body and screams “What kind of twisted mind could do this?” evidently forgetting that she is currently a grad student who has presumably spent the last few years of her life studying that very question. Then there is the moment when Shelly walks into a tense meeting with several glasses of moo juice and cheerily announces “Milk Maid!” Then there are the lines of weirdly on-the-nose dialogue that almost sound like the screenplay itself is confessing to its own stupidity. How else to account for lines such as “It goes on like that for about an hour,” “What next?” “You look so totally clueless” and the deathless “It’s not absurd—I don’t have time to explain it!”

While all of the talented actors on display her come off terribly (while I don’t want to sound like I am picking on her, I will note that this is the weakest performance that Leelee Sobieski has given in a film this year and bear in mind, her other 2008 effort was an Uwe Boll movie), it is Pacino who comes off worst. Even in films that aren’t working at all, such as “The Devil’s Advocate” or “Two for the Money” or even “Gigli,” Pacino usually brings enough of his patented brand of bluster to the proceedings to make things reasonably enjoyable as long as he is on the screen. Unfortunately, he must have realized quite early on that this was hopeless dreck because aside from a couple of brief-but-welcome moments of scenery-chewing, he strolls through the movie in a strangely subdued manner that is utterly at odds with the screwball screenplay surrounding him. In all of the 108 minutes of “88 Minutes,” he gets exactly one unapologetically good moment—a bit in which the old standby “If you want me to move, you are going to have to shoot me” gets an amusing twist. Maybe someone out there will get the bright idea to lift this moment out of this film wholesale and reinsert it into one that actually deserves it. If this actually happens, it will go down as the only bright idea ever to be associated with “88 Minutes.”

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17080&reviewer=389
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
9/05/08 PAUL SHORTT ITS NOT OFTEN YOU ENCOUNTER A FEATURE FILM THAT CONTAINS NOT EVEN ONE BELIEVABLE MOMENT 1 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
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Apr-2008 (R)
  DVD: 16-Sep-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
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  DVD: 16-Sep-2008




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