Sometimes you question how a many goes to theaters. Some movies just seemed destined for television and when they come to the big screen you wonder how that happened. “88 Minutes” is one such movie. In watching this movie it would seem destined for success, it stars Al Pacino and is a thriller, a genre he does well, but where “88 Minutes” fails is in its incredibly high concept premise and just overall TV-movie quality.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm (Pacino) and his group of students are celebrating the upcoming execution of serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) based on Gramm’s testimony. When Gramm learns that a female student was killed in the same style as Forster’s killings he begins to think it might be a ploy to release the killer and implicate Gramm himself. The movie focuses around a series of phone calls Gramm receives stating he has 88 minutes to live kicking off a cat and mouse thriller as students become enemies and Gramm has to run from the law and solve the mystery.
What did I like about this? To be quite honest I had never heard of this movie until I saw the trailers and even then I only saw it because I was shocked to see Ben McKenzie of “The OC” in it. It also doesn’t help the movie has been sitting on a shelf for a year. The only thing I can praise is how quick the film is. From the time Gramm receives the phone calls the movie is wrapped up in about 88 minutes so that’s great…right?
Other than that this movie has no appeal whatsoever. While the movie is 88 minutes it is an incredibly dry runtime. A movie like this requires action and suspense, sadly there’s none to be had. The movie suffers from way too much dialogue and no action, there’s a series of flashbacks to an event that has very little to do with moving the overall plot and the end is seen from a mile away. There are also so many questions that make you wonder why Gramm is doing what he’s doing. He immediately thinks a student is behind the murders but we never understand why he automatically assumes it’s a student. It’s almost like there is a big part of the script that didn’t get filmed. There are also flashbacks to a party where we see every character and what they did. The party only seems to have a small significance, since one of the girls was murdered, but after awhile you just wonder why they can’t tell you instead of showing the exact same scene. The movie also tries to place way too many twists. You think one character did it, and then another mysterious character shows up, cue an unnecessary backstory on that character…etc. By the end you’ve already figured out the ending but the director just keeps throwing twists which don’t confuse at all. By the end of the movie the reason behind the murders is just so laughable you’re hoping the director is joking, honestly I laughed at the end. The backstory behind Pacino’s character is also incredibly cliché and just comes out of nowhere making you feel even more disconnected from the plot.
The acting is another incredibly low point about “88 Minutes.” Pacino basically hams it up for the entire movie. When he’s not yelling at people (even when there’s no reason to), he looks like he rolled out of bed which makes you wonder why all these women want him. Alicia Witt is basically the hot sidekick with no purpose and Amy Brenneman just seems to be used to get a female kiss in the movie. Ben McKenzie is wasted as one of Gramm’s students. He’s literally in about three scenes and at the end you wonder where the hell he went because he’s never mentioned. They try to play up the idea that he might have been involved in the murders but it’s just dropped and never explained. McDonough just plays the same type of character he’s played in the last six movies he’s done. The worst acting by far comes from Leelee Sobieski. She sounds incredibly monotone and is the worst overactor in history. She tries to come off as menacing but just looks dull and hollow. She looks so bored in this movie it made me cringe every time she opened her mouth.
I have to give “88 minutes” a 1/5. The only praise I can give it is that it’s quick. This could easily have done well on TBS or TNT but as a theatrical movie it’s just God-awful.