Length: 108 minutes
Director: Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes; The War)
Writer: Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious; Timecop 2)
Starring: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger, Benjamin McKenzie, Neal McDonough, Victoria Tennant
It’s no surprise that “88 Minutes” has sat on the shelf (at least in the U.S.) for two years before finally seeing a theatrical release this upcoming April. The surprise is that it’s receiving one at all. This is certainly not Al Pacino’s finest moment. He must have owed somebody a really big favor. There is no possible way he read the script to this movie and knew this was going to be good. No possible way. Then again, when the project was first greenlighted his good friend and genius director James Foley of “Glengarry Glen Ross” fame was attached- so that could explain something. Still, a good agent would have found him a way to back out once Foley did. This is a thriller that makes those silly crime thriller books you pick up at the airport gift shops look like masterpieces of literature- James Patterson like F. Scott Fitzgerald. It has such little credit for it’s audience that it supplies Pacino’s character with a sidekick (Alicia Witt) who literally explains everything as it’s happening just so we won’t miss anything. Even still, this backfires as all it does is point out how completely illogical and unconvincing all the plot twists are. Even the poorest episode of “CSI” would run circles around this. Pacino, who has basically been sleepwalking through his roles for the past ten years, plays an FBI psychiatrist named Dr. Jack Grimm. He teaches a course at a Seattle University and was recently responsible for helping to convict deranged serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough). There is a good deal of controversy surrounding his participation in the trial as it is believed he holds a personal grudge against Forster since Grimm’s baby sister (Lea Nicole Carranza) was once the victim of a serial killer. On the eve of Forster’s execution, Grimm and some of his students go out drinking. Grimm goes home with a beautiful barfly (Leah Cairns). When he goes to work in the morning, he is stunned to find the FBI waiting in his office to inform him one of his students (Kristina Copeland) has been murdered- in the same style as Forster’s. On his way to class Grimm receives a phone call from an anonymous caller informing him he has “88 minutes” to live. “Tick tock doc”, the caller informs him in a “Scream” rip off voice (coincidentally it took 88 minutes for Grimm’s little sister to die). And so, Grimm begins a wild goose chase to try and figure out who is trying to kill him and why. He is pretty sure Forster is behind it, but who has he enlisted from behind bars? Grimm’s beautiful teacher’s aid (Witt) who has a psychotic ex-husband (Stephen Moyer) stalking her? A hot shot student (“The O.C.”’s Benjamin McKenzie) who believes Forster is innocent? The straight laced by the books student (Leelee Sobieski)? Grimm’s lesbian assistant (Amy Brenneman)? The University Dean (Deborah Kara Unger) whom Grimm had an affair with? The one night stand? The FBI agent (William Forsythe) who despises Grimm’s drinking and womanizing? The movie reminded me so much of one of those airport novels that I could practically hear the book on tape version being read to me as the action happened- describing the clichéd characters as they went through their hollowed, predicable motions. It will be no surprise to anybody when the conclusion rolls around after an excruciating 88 minutes of Pacino hamming it up and Witt following him around repeating every single thing that’s happening. This is the type of movie where every single character is introduced by their full name, profession, and main attribute. For example- when Pacino arrives at class and McKenzie’s character makes a smart ass remark- Pacino retorts with “Ah, Mike Stemp my favorite student”. The Dean arrives moments later to declare a bomb threat and Grimm introduces her as if none of the students know who she is- “Dean Carol Johnson!”. Characters who have supposedly known each other for years also tell each other information that couldn’t have possibly been kept secret for so long as events unravel. The movie plays it’s audience for suckers. Last year in an interview with CQ magazine director Francis Ford Coppola kind of attacked Pacino (along with Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro) for being lazy lately. He got a lot of heat for it- but watch this movie and try arguing against his statement. Do you think twenty years ago Al would have made a movie like this? It’s a shame to watch such great talent wasted in trite like this.
Opens in US Theaters on April 18th