88 Minutes is unfortunately not 88 minutes long. Even if you get up right when the end credits start, you’re still looking at a commitment of more than 100 minutes, which is time you could’ve spent contracting a disease or banging your head into a wall.
It’s not just bad. It’s epically bad. It’s laugh-derisively-at-the-screen-repeatedly bad. What could’ve been a crappy little suspense movie that you’re too happy to forget is instead so blatantly terrible that it’s bound to be that one movie aliens pick to watch when they come to Earth to judge whether the human race is worth saving or annihilating. We’ll all be praying they choose Casablanca or Rudy or something, but they’ll choose 88 Minutes, and 100 minutes later we’ll be nothing but cinder.
Al Pacino, the involvement of whom is obviously the only reason this movie was ever made, stars as Dr. Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist and college professor. A few years ago his psychiatric evaluation of serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) was enough to convince a jury to put Forster on death row; now, the day he’s to be put to death, a copycat murder is discovered that casts doubt on Forster’s guilt.
Oh, and one of Gramm’s students is also found murdered. And somebody calls Gramm telling he has eighty-eight minutes to live. And Gramm’s teaching assistant has an ex-boyfriend who’s stalking her.
It’s that last one that threw me off. Let’s break down all the different plotlines happening at once: okay, the whole plotline with Forster and the copycat murder is just set-up. Gramm’s dead student seems like it’s unnecessarily cluttering the plot, but fine, whatever. The call telling him he has eighty-eight minutes to live is obviously the main plot of the film, and Gramm thinks it’s someone working for Forster on the outside to get revenge, so, cool. Now why the heck is so much time devoted to an ex-boyfriend of Gramm’s teaching assistant (Alicia Witt)? We keep going back to the ex-boyfriend, the ex-boyfriend, and that plotline goes nowhere. It’s a red herring, I guess, but in a movie that has way too much going on (the feds are also starting to suspect Pacino, of what I’m not quite sure), it feels random and at odds with the tone of the rest of the movie.
What is the rest of the movie? Basically it’s Pacino making a lot of phone calls. And I mean nonstop. He makes upwards of fifty phone calls in this movie, and that’s a tame estimate "” I almost said seventy-five. Since the movie tries its hardest to take place in real time once Pacino gets the eighty-eight minute warning, he can’t really go a lot of places "” we start at the college,
then the parking garage, then his apartment, then another apartment, then back to the college "” and to get around the logistical problems with that, he spends the entire movie
on the freaking phone.
Besides, I never really liked the whole eighty-eight minute conceit anyway. It’s not like Pacino is “destined” to die in eighty-eight minutes "” it’s just that the secret bad guy is trying to mess with him. What if the bad guy gets held up at a red light and has to kill Pacino in eighty-nine minutes? What if the bad guy jumps the gun and sees an opportunity to take Pacino out in eighty-two minutes? It’s a completely arbitrary number that only serves to highlight the ludicrousness of the master plan.
And I promise, it’s ludicrous in a lot of ways. It’s one of those movies where when the bad guy kidnaps one of Pacino’s friends, instead of simply tying her up, the bad guy sets up an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys in order to hang her over a hundred-foot drop. Then, in the climax, the bad guy actually says, “I even spent all this time setting up the ropes and pulleys!”
Sorry I keep repeating “the bad guy,” but I wouldn’t dare give you any clues who he or she turns out to be. Not like it matters; even after the Master Plan is revealed I’m not sure how it could’ve possibly worked.
And I won’t even get into the scene where Forster is being interviewed (again this is on the day of his execution) on live television, and Pacino is somehow able to call into the interview, and then a guard shows up telling Forster he just got a stay of execution…which apparently the movie later forgets about when Pacino reminds Forster he’s going to die that night.
There are really two Pacinos. The first is Awesome Pacino of all the classic ’70s movies and some solid recent movies like Insomnia. Then there’s the over-the-top Pacino of The Devil’s Advocate or Simone: still a great actor, but veering dangerously close to self-parody. Guess which Pacino we see in this movie?
As a matter of fact, the whole film is like that. A skilled director could take the same exact script from 88 Minutes, change maybe three or four lines, and shoot it as a spoof movie. It’s that close to self-parody.
Movie Grade: D
In 88 Minutes, Al Pacino stars as Dr. Jack Gramm, a college professor who moonlights as a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI. When Gramm receives a death threat claiming he has only 88 minutes to live, he must use all his skills and training to narrow down the possible suspects, who include a disgruntled student, a jilted former lover, and a serial killer who is already on death row,
before his time runs out.