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New release: 88 Minutes

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88 Minutes actually runs 108 minutes, a cruel trick to play on moviegoers who check their watches at the 80-minute mark and erroneously believe they’re on the verge of being set free. A film so moldy that it was released on DVD in some foreign territories as far back as February 2007, this tarnished star vehicle is finally being dumped into U.S. theaters.

As laughable as any thriller that’s come down the pike in a while, 88 Minutes stars Al Pacino (mercifully keeping the “Hoo-ah!” showboating to a minimum) as Dr. Jack Gramm, a college professor and forensic psychiatrist whose expertise has repeatedly helped the FBI in nailing down serial killers. Kicking off in 1997, the film finds Gramm providing the invaluable testimony which convinces a jury that Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) is the “Seattle Slayer” responsible for the grisly killings taking place around the city. Cut to nine years later, and we find that Forster is finally scheduled to be executed. But a new rash of similarly styled bloodbaths has Seattle’s finest perplexed. Are these murders the work of a copycat killer? Is Forster really innocent, and the real killer has never been caught? Is Forster masterminding the proceedings from his front-row seat on Death Row, with an accomplice on the outside doing his dirty deeds? Or is it possible that the real killer is -- gasp! -- Gramm himself? Although some of the other characters suspect that Gramm might really be the sicko, the movie never allows that suspicion to take root in our minds; after all, the title comes from the fact that a menacing voice over his cell phone informs him that he only has 88 minutes to live. “Tick tock, doc,” the caller repeats during every phone conversation, a pithy catchphrase that’s annoying upon its very first use and becomes the verbal equivalent of Chinese water torture during its subsequent utterances. By removing Gramm from the list of suspects, that leaves us only, oh, 126 other characters from which to sniff out the actual villain. That’s because Jon Avnet’s clumsy direction dictates that practically every actor who walks in front of the camera lens, right down to bit players, try to act as suspicious and menacing as possible. It’s usually fun when a murder-mystery offers several suspects, but this goes beyond serving up a few red herrings; here, we get trout, tilapia and mahi mahi as well.

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