88 Minutes
Is 80 Minutes Too Long

Actually, 88 Minutes is 108 minutes long. So, doing the math, this story could have been screened as a short subject of twenty minutes with no harm to the story line. Better yet… make the movie eighty-eight minutes long, as the name states, and leave a whole bunch of poorly-written, superfluous scenes lying on the editing room floor. The best reception this film could hope for would be a combined Avnet-Pacino 4th of July family BBQ.

From my opening paragraph, you could deduce that I didn’t like the film. Actually, my feelings run deeper, to profound disappointment. I’ve been waiting to see Mr. Pacino in something really good since Scent of a Woman, and 88 Minutes has not ended that wait.

Jon Avnet, director of 88 Minutes88 Minutes contains all the story elements for a good thriller. After assisting in the conviction of a serial killer, forensic psychiatrist and college professor Jack Gramm (Pacino) is targeted for revenge by the killer, Jon Forster. One day, after Forster has been in prison seven years, Jack begins receiving cryptic phone calls, telling him that he will die in eighty-eight minutes. Since Forster is still in prison, it becomes obvious that he has a partner who is helping not only to dispose of Jack, but to also thoroughly discredit him. After nearly two hours of pretty ladies (both alive and dead), an exploding Porsche, a little pyromania, and everybody armed to the teeth, the mystery is solved.

The problem with 88 Minutes is not with the story itself, but with the screenwriting and directing. The dialogue is juvenile and pedantic. Jack Gramm is supposed to be a brilliant forensic psychiatrist but his vocabulary is sophomoric and he doesn’t seem capable of producing a compound sentence. Other characters suffer in the same manner, and overall, characterization is shallow and poorly developed. The audience is to believe that Forster is innocent and has been “set up,” but the actors don’t even sound convinced of their lines when they attempt to sell this theory.

In directing, Avnet is very lax with little details that really bug observant moviegoers. The setting of the film is Seattle, Washington, but in some of the very first scenes, a Shoppers’ Drug Mart is shot in the background. This chain is solely Canadian. The first time we see Jack’s Porsche parked in the garage, it has multi-spoke tire rims, but when the car leaves the garage, the mags only have five spokes. Every time Jack is on the cell phone (especially in the car), the phone bounces from ear to ear with every change of the camera angle but with no evidence that Jack has used his hands to change positions. (I guess to be fair, I would have to hold the film editor accountable for some of these discrepancies.) Finally, the storyline is kept fairly muddy by an unconvincing progression meant to eliminate each character as Jack’s potential killer. The problem is that Avnet seems to lose his place, and after dealing with a couple of Jack’s students as suspects, he comes back to give them a second try and just produces a state of confusion. The soundtrack doesn’t help the situation because the music is so constantly brooding and sinister that the audience is numbed to danger and doesn’t even startle when someone jumps out from the dark.

If 88 Minutes makes a killing at the box office, it will be solely based upon the drawing power of Pacino’s name. Maybe it’s worth the price to see a 67-year-old man looking 47 and still able to run up several flights of stairs. Or, maybe I’ve missed the point entirely. I spent the whole 108-minute runtime trying to figure out what on earth they had done to Al’s hair!

88 Minutes is rated R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity, and language. There isn’t anything to this film that will delight children or teens, and female bodies dripping blood are only the stuff of nightmares. Spare yourself and the kids; but if you must go, leave the kids at home.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Kathy attended a promotional screening of 88 Minutes.