88 MinutesReviewed By William Goss
Posted 04/18/08 15:29:40
There’s an old saying I have, a personal credo if you will: whenever one finds themselves convicted on multiple counts of rape and murder, always put off exacting any elaborate revenge schemes upon the psychiatrist whose testimony kept you waiting a good nine years behind bars until the day you’re due for a lethal injection.Thankfully, Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) shares my philosophy of waiting for procrastination to pay off, as he does just that when he lets loose with – wait for it – an exceedingly elaborate revenge scheme, of which one Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) is the target. A masked voice on the other end of Gramm’s cell phone kicks off a countdown of 88 minutes until he is to be forcibly shuffled off this mortal coil, by either the actual “Seattle Strangler,” whose rap Forster took the fall for, or a conveniently cooperative copycat whose most recent victims have cast just enough doubt on the good doctor’s testimony to bring about a stay of execution.
The rare bad movie that extends the courtesy of letting the viewer know just how much time remains lest they lift their wrist with blameless frequency, it should go noted that the titular time period seems to have less to do with the death of Jack’s sister years before and more with just how long writer Gary Scott Thompson was given to slap together this stutter-stop script of his before he handed it over to the hack likes of director Jon Avnet. It takes twenty minutes for the story’s real-time element to kick in, and even then, we’re ready to assume that our fairly geriatric ladies’ man can dash hither and yon across the whole of Vancouv-- Supposedly Seattle without matters of traffic or arthritis getting in the way. Naturally, if Avnet, Thompson, and editor Peter Berger could muster up any sense of tension beyond the croaking reminders that the clock-blocked doc has x minutes to live, one would be willing to leave select nits unpicked. The show “24” has pulled the concept off for much of its run to date, and even the 1995 thriller Nick of Time managed to keep up some honest-to-goodness momentum in spite of some ridiculous circumstances.
Alas, what we’re dealing with here is an alleged thriller filled to the brim with ridiculous circumstances, inept dialogue, and some very bad performances. In a relentlessly droopy-eyed stupor, Professor Pacino runs to and fro with a Wolfman Jack ‘do – poofed coif, garish goatee, the whole nine – and psychobabble practically drooling down his chin as he runs into pretty much anyone and everyone who could ever cast him even the slightest ambiguous glance, more often than not his own super-students (including Leelee Sobieski, Benjamin McKenzie, and Alicia Witt), who find themselves spouting forth no-duh dialogue with disconcerting ease. Witt in particular fares worst of all, seemingly affecting a sense of retardation typically reserved for those pining for either Oscars or Razzies: “Hey, there’s smoke!”, upon reaching a smoking door, or “What next?”, upon surviving a car bomb, or “What kind of twisted person would do this?”, upon finding the Vancouv-- Seattle Strangler’s latest victim.
And that isn’t to mention dean Deborah Kara Unger, detective William Forsythe, and secretary Amy Brenneman, whose homosexuality is established solely as mere plot contrivance. Hell, even the campus cops and condo desk jockeys can’t help themselves. Why have a regular security guard simply mention an unusual package when you can let Ethan Hawke’s greasy stunt double take an extra-simpering swing at it? Because EVERYONE HERE IS A S-U-S-P-E-C-T. You could take a van full of contortionists out to a fish market, and I sincerely doubt you’d come across nearly as many red herrings and unlikely twists, and yet the proceedings continue to build towards a thoroughly absurd climax, by which point we’d be disappointed if it were anything less.Shot in 2005, set in 2006, and dumped in 2007 in all other territories save for the States (our cut has a different opening, natch), this whole debacle brings to mind another maxim – albeit one that finds itself seemingly contradicted by this film’s very unspooling – because the man who said “time heals all wounds” has clearly never sat through the likes of '88 Minutes'.
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