How to put this mildly? When Al Pacino gets a call from an anonymous antagonist in the new thriller “88 Minutes” and tells him he has 88 minutes to live, my first thought after looking at Pacino was “Is it his physician? His cardiologist?”

Haggard and crinkly as a wadded-up Kleenex, Pacino looks far out of a role that requires him to be a hard-partying, libidinous professor whose musk seems to attract all female students a quarter his age.

The film’s opening scene, in which he’s getting jiggy with a roomful of models/students (seriously, are there no ugly kids taking forensics classes in this town?), is far more frightening than anything that follows in this sub-standard serial killer thriller directed by Jon Avnet.

Pacino plays Dr. Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist whose professional prowess lands him a sweet gig with the local FBI, a spot on staff at a Seattle university, and an endless receiving line of beautiful young students ready to personally collect samples of his DNA.

As the character is drawn, Gramm is a Freudian dream come true – narcissistic, skirt-chasing and driver of a luxury little sports car (is that the new Porsche Phallus?). Gee, Gramm. Compensate much?

Gramm’s under scrutiny as his perhaps questionable testimony has slapped a man with the “Seattle Slayer” moniker, resulting in a death sentence for a number of murders in the rainy city.

“88 Minutes” is the type of picture that, when Gramm’s taunted with his cellphone by an unknown assailant, the camera slowly lingers on every face on campus as each one shoots ominously accusatory glances. It’s the type of film where said tormentor possesses omnipotent powers as he/she anticipates Gramm’s every move and plants threatening messages informing him exactly how many minutes he has left to live. It’s the type of film that introduces us to shadowy characters with names like Guy LaForge (I am guessing there was licensing problems with Sammy St. Snufalufogus).

And, like it’s clock-ticking televised cousin “24,” “88 Minutes” is the type of picture in which all of the events seem to happen within mere feet of where Gramm is standing, as he’s able to skip across the state with little regard to laws of speed and sound.

Suspects include his pretty student teacher (played by Alicia Witt, who, it should be noted, is  studying forensics, yet screams hysterically when seeing a dead body), his pretty co-worker (played by Amy Brennaman), his pretty dean (played by Debra Kara Unger) and his pretty students (played by Leelee Sobieski and Ben McKenzie).

Any above picture’s faults do not end there. It goes to such great lengths to make every single minor character a candidate, it becomes utterly pointless to try to play along (that said, the perpetrator can be deduced by audience members with 73 minutes to spare). For example, when a school building is evacuated after a bomb threat, a fire engine barrels onto the scene, causing random citizens to dive out of its way, including Gramm. Yup, got to love those emergency workers who’d mow down a street-full of citizens in order to save others.

Pacino does what is required of him, which is weak by the actor’s standards, but still light years ahead of the rest of the cast. The term “cash-grab” immediately comes to mind and the film feels similar to the type of production fellow acting legend Robert DeNiro has been slumming in of recent years (“15 Minutes, Showtime, Hide and Seek).

Pacino will soon share the screen again with DeNiro in yet another film about cops and serial killers and it, too, is directed by Avnet. While it will be a treat to have them both share screen time, one can only hope that it’s not as literally by-the-numbers as “88 Minutes.”

~ by usesoapfilm on April 16, 2008.

3 Responses to “Over-time”

  1. Great review! I movie hopped to this one for free and found it so hopeless as a film that it became kind of hilarious as an effort. One of my favorite scenes was when he drops his cell phone and starts yelling “I broke it! I broke my cellphone!” to everyone he encounters. There’s a fantastic example of screen writing for you. That 88 minutes was like a countdown to the end of the film. Every time the killer rang it was time to look at my watch again.

    -Whitney (dearjesus.wordpress.com)

  2. What I couldn’t get over while watching 88 Minutes was how much extra time he had. Apparently, the professor has 15 minutes worth of stuff to do and 88 minutes to do it. He sits around his apartment watching TIVO. He sits in his car with a pretty student reminiscing about the past. He calls in to a news show to chat with a serial killer. And he does it all in so-called “real time.” My watch says otherwise.

  3. I have long cried out about how he and DeNiro are cheapening their legacy by cashing in on these jobs which are nothing more than a new beach house payment to them (Now, every child born past 2000 will see ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Goodfellas’ and say…’Hey that’s the guy from A Shark’s Tale’!).

    Sadder still, ‘A Righteous Kill’ the triumphant return for them both together since ‘Heat’ (a personal fave) has been going through some major reshoots and date changes — never a good sign.

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