Directed by Jon Avent
Screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson
Starring Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Benjamin McKenzie, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger, Neal McDonough
Release date: April 18, 2008
Score - BOMB
Imagine this: You're a very respectable FBI forensic psychiatrist/college professor who his/her students idolize and the rest of your fellow citizens for putting away a serial killer. Everything's going fine until one morning, you receive a call that threatens that you only have 88 minutes left to live. What do you do? Would you call the cops? Would you panic enough to quickly figure out who is behind this to stop the countdown to your death? Not if you're Dr. Jack Gramm, played by Al Pacino, in "88 Minutes". You'd continue your class, have multiple phone conversations at once with your collegues, phone into a television station to threaten a serial killer about to get executed, and have time to pull off 20-something college students off of you. Doesn't make sense, right? Well, neither does this film.
Al Pacino plays Dr. Jack Gramm, a well-respected forensic psychiatrist who not only moonlights as a college professor in Seattle, Washington, but seems to have great connections within the F.B.I. as well. Apparently Gramm became a big name due to his testimony, which helped convict a suspected serial killer named Jon Forster (Neal McDonough), who apparently murdered women at their apartments by hanging them upside and cutting them. Nine years pass, which coincidentally fall on the eve of Forster's conviction, and another murder in the M.O. of Forster occurs. This creates doubt within the F.B.I whether they really convicted the right murderer. The victim of this murder also happened to be one of Gramm's college students, creating a link that points directly at the doctor.
Before he can put things together and figure out what's going on, Gramm receives a phone call by some distorted voice that he only has 88 minutes left to live. The culprit constantly reminds him through phone calls, leaving a note on his projector, and scratching up his car in a parking lot as if he knew Gramm was gonna look at these things and go to these places. The killer must be psychic! Anyway, new murders keep occuring, making Gramm wonder if Forster was really the killer or having a flunkie do the work for him in order to set him free. So is Forster really behind this? Is it one of Gramm's disgruntled college students? Is it Gramm's vocally lesbian colleague (Amy Brenneman)? Do you really care? You won't if you actually stay sane while watching this film!
"88 Minutes" has got to be one of the most predictable, generic, and convoluted thrillers (and I use that term loosely) that I have seen in a very long time. This film is bad, people. Really bad. So bad that I regret accepting a FREE pass to see this movie! I don't understand how such a respected actor like Al Pacino could sink so low and accept the lead role in such a stupid movie. What happened to the days of "The Godfather", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Scarface", "Serpico", and "Scent Of A Woman"? Does he really need the cash that bad? Did he do this film as a favor? It had to be a favor. No person in their right mind read this script and thought this was gonna be a great film. And if they did, they need to be on those same pills that calmed down Britney Spears.
The worst fault in this film is the horrible screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson. It's as if he put every freakin' cliche in a hat, and pulled out what he could in the span of a minute. Nothing makes sense in this film! There are like 100 subplots within 107 minutes of movie time. Not even "Melrose Place" had this many and they had some wacky shit going on that program. Want examples? We have Gramm's profession as a college professor AND an F.B.I. forensic psychiatrist. We have Gramm's relationship with his students, who either dispute what he says or want to jump his bones for some apparent reason. We have Gramm's affections for his assistant, who pretty much blurts out she's a lesbian as if it's gonna be a major plot point later on (which it kind of does by the way, but come on - subtlety would be nice!). We have the Forster character who gets a great deal of TV time for someone who committed horrible crimes and is about to be executed in hours. We have people coming out with random stories about themselves and people that change every five seconds in order to throw us off. We have some subplot with Gramm's sister that relates to the 88 minutes concept. And there's so much more. If I continue, this review would never end. It's ridiculous. This is a great concept but it's bogged down by so many other issues and ideas that it becomes a non-issue. And the sad part is that even with all these red herrings, I still pinpointed the culprit within half hour into the film. It's sad that the mystery wasn't even a mystery at all, even with all this bullshit poured on to create one.
And then there are the characters, who are some of the illogical people I have seen in a film in a long time. Gramm receives a death threat and what does he do? HE TEACHES A CLASS! And when there's a bomb threat at the college, he walks out as if it's no big deal. Are there a massive amount of bomb threats in Seattle? Someone please tell me so I'm prepared! He also has time to call the MSNBC to speak with Forster for a good five minutes, even though there's a killer that's not only setting him up, but trying to kill him in the process. He doesn't even call the cops about this. That would be the FIRST thing I'd do!
And let's talk about his college students, who just happen to pop up at the most convenient of places when you need them. It's supposed to make you question if they're the culprit, which it's so obvious that they're not. I'm not five-years-old. Don't insult my intelligence. Speaking of being an insult, the Alicia Witt character had to be the most ridiculous person in the entire film. Apparently she has an ex-boyfriend/ex-husband/whatever after her (her story is never straight), yet she's busy taking off her jacket to show off her body in order to seduce Gramm and talk about kids. This is while BOTH their lives are threatened. I tell you, some chicks don't give a damn whether their lives are at stake. When they want May-December romance sex, they better get it or bad things will happen. Normally, I respect that in a female but not in the context of this film.
The direction by Jon Avent is pretty un-Aventful (yay! I love puns!). Seriously, it's all over the place. There's some style but things are edited weirdly and the visuals seem to move faster than the story does. It would have helped if Avent would have compensated the lack of a coherent story by visually making the film seem together. But nope. Avent just creates bigger and deeper plotholes not even King Kong can climb out of. I was more confused than anything at to how the story was being told. Even the ending was anticlimatic. What was the point of all this?
The acting was bland as well. Al Pacino is a great actor, even when he's not giving it his 100 percent - and he's definitely not doing that here. I don't really blame him. He has some really terrible dialogue and just seems bored most of the time. That check must have been pretty big, that's for sure. The other actors don't get it any better. Alicia Witt is a good actress but she's saddled with some clunkers for lines that I'm surprised she did it all with a straight face. William Forsythe, Amy Brenneman, Deborah Kara Unger (looking like a slutty librarian), and Benjamin McKenzie don't have it any better. Even Neal McDonough doesn't fare well, even though he seems to be enjoying himself. He's a better actor than I thought. The worst actor is Leelee Sobieski. I've never found her fascinating as an actress at all. I think the only film I've enjoyed her in was "Joyride" and it wasn't because of her. Looks will get you so far, Ms. Sobieski. I don't give a damn if you look like a less talented Helen Hunt. I'm just not that "Mad About You".
What I'm trying to say is that "88 Minutes" is 88 minutes too long. It's one of the worst films I've seen in 2008 and I never want to see it again. Apparently this went straight-to-DVD in Germany last year and now I know why. If Pacino wasn't attached to this, would we even be talking about and reading about this film right now? Probably not. But hey, if you love watching a dumbass script that creates dumbass situations for dumbass characters, then by all means watch "88 Minutes". Just remember that I can't give you your time back. Do something productive with your 88 minutes and let this film rot when it goes straight-to-DVD next week.