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88 Minutes

88 Minutes? How about five? That's about all you're going to be able to stomach watching this hackneyed mess.


Oh, where to begin the insanity? Let's start with a serial killer breaking into two young women's apartment, killing one of them but getting scared off before he can finish off the other one. At the trial of Jon Forster (Neal McDonough), the possible serial killer, testimony from celebrated forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) sends the guy to the gas chamber--even though the lone witness didn't get a clear look and all the other evidence is circumstantial. Jump to nine years later, when Gramm is still celebrated--mostly by the females in his life, including a few of his college students (Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski), the dean of the college (Deborah Kara Unger) and especially his loyal assistant (Amy Brenneman). But Gramm's cushy life is turned upside down when a woman he knows is found murdered by what looks to be the same serial killer Gramm thought he put away. Did the wrong man get accused? Oh, and Gramm also receives a phone call that he has 88 minutes to live. Bad day for Gramm. Bad movie-going experience for us all.


Al, buddy, what were you thinking? At least the over-the-top Pacino plays it to the hilt as only he can. His requisite screaming scene, for example, has his Gramm trying to "get into the head" of Forster (played by McDonough with all the malevolence he can muster) by yelling all his dialogue at him so the convict will crack. Right. The real kicker is Gramm describing his little sister's murder years ago, his voice cracking with emotion. It doesn't even come close to sincerity. Pacino is also supported by a bevy of recognizable actresses who probably took the job just to work with the actor but who shouldn't count this one on their resumes. Witt is reduced to playing wide-eyed terror as she follows Pacino around on his quest to find out who's threatening him, while Sobieski mostly moons over the professor. The usually good Brenneman's super-assistant delivers all of Gramm's CRAZY requests with much calm and precision. But all these women seem to have some kind of ulterior motive, so which one has it in for the good doctor? I won't tell.


Director Jon Avnet, whose best known for helming Fried Green Tomatoes and Red Corner, does a fair enough job. There are enough jumps and starts to, at the very least, keep the action going. No, truly the most laughable part of the film is the script by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious). From the moment Gramm gets the threatening phone call to how the killer can find him anywhere, anytime, with any communication device--none of it makes sense. You can't even suspend disbelief, just for a moment. And the dialogue? Wow. Thompson must have pilfered from all the bad thriller/cop/serial killer movies ever made. Rumor has it 88 Minutes was slated to go directly to DVD, but somehow got the green light for a theatrical release. Let's hope Al Pacino didn't push for it--that would just be sad.

Bottom Line rated this film 1 star.