Theatrical Review: 88 Minutes

As our story starts, it’s 1997 and the place is Seattle, Washington. A man named Jon Forster has been arrested for serial killings (as the Seattle Slayer) and is being sent to jail by the damning testimony put together by FBI forensic psychologist Jack Gramm. As Forster is found guilty, he looks over to Gramm in the courtroom and mouthes the words “Tick tock, Doc.” 9 years later, on the day that Forster is to be put to death, a new crime with the same M.O. as the Settle Slayer is committed, and Jack Gramm receives a phone call telling him that he has only 88 minutes left to live, ending with the words “Tick tock, Doc.” Now Jack Gramm must put together the pieces and keep himself alive over this short, but significant to Gramm, period of time.

88 Minutes is a new thriller from director Jon Avnet starring Al Pacino in the role of Dr. Jack Gramm, and it’s premise is pretty good, but it’s execution is pretty preposterous and almost laughable in a lot of places, but for me anyway still watchable just for Al Pacino, doing the stuff that Al Pacino does best, but keep in mind, that is not a recommendation for the fim.

What it suffers from is the same thing that a lot of Hollywood thrillers suffer from today, and that’s being overly plotted to death to give out the guise of complexity, when what it boils down to is just being ridiculous and coincidental in how everything falls into place. The majority of the film runs in a bit of pseudo-real time, though there’s nothing on-screen that indicates that, you’re just reminded of it by phone calls and other means as the story unfolds. Now this isn’t a bad way to do this at all, but here it just feels that the pacing is almost casual in how stuff unfolds, and at least in my eyes, if you’re going to do something like this, things should seem just a little more frantic than how they play on-screen.

Jack Gramm, not only works for the FBI but is also a successful college professor who teaches forensic psychology, and his students are also drawn into the events on-screen. This sets up a number of the coincedences and red herrings here that really plays into the implausibility of things, and yet oddly, I still had fun with this.

And most of that fun comes with Al Pacino. Now I’m sure that many will see this and just not think this is great work from him and in more than all likelihood, 88 Minutes is Al Pacino cashing a paycheck, but he still throws himself into this, but more as Al Pacino rather than playing a real character (and maybe it’s not entirely for the paycheck either, as another movie, Righteous Kill from director Jon Avnet is coming, teaming Pacino and Robert DeNiro together again, but I digress…). And I’m a Pacino fan so for that, it’s fun for me anyway. Pacino’s backed up with some pretty good players here including Neal MacDonough as Forster, Amy Brenneman, Leelee Sobieski, Alicia Witt, Deborah Kara Unger and William Forsythe, with MacDonough being the best of the bunch, and Amy Brenneman playing the hardest working assistant ever seen on-screen (to me, her part is almost a running gag here, the moment Jack needs anything he calls here and it comes up right away). It’s a good cast overall, it just needs a better movie to be in.

Like I said, I cannot recommend this, though if you appreciate the aspects of the character that Al Pacino has become (and a lot of that is due to an incredible impression of Pacino that comedian Craig Gass has done, made popular on The Howard Stern Show), then you might have some fun with this like I did, though I’d expect that most won’t. The biggest saving grace for me anyway is that I got to see it for free, having gotten “movie money” for this in recently buying a Special Edition DVD package for an earlier and far, far better Al Pacino film, “… And Justice For All”. Unless you did what I did, I really cannot say to make the trip to a theatre to see this, just wait for a cable run of the film. Hopefully, Avnet and Pacino will score better when Righteous Kill premieres later in the year.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

22. April 2008 by Darren Goodhart
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