by Jeff Meyers
Wow. When Al Pacino steps in it, he really steps in it. Not since the travesty of Revolution has the hyperbolic actor chosen a project so mind-numbingly dumb as 88 Minutes. It's not just that this craptacular serial-killer thriller doesn't make sense; it's that it's a prime example of incompetent filmmaking. From its undercooked, implausible storyline to its atrocious acting to a ticking clock scenario that is unable to generate the least bit of suspense, 88 Minutes is actually 106 minutes. That's 106 minutes you'll never have back.
Jack Gramm (Pacino) is an FBI forensic psychologist and Seattle college professor. His testimony sent serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) to death row. When a series of copycat murders arises, Forster not only gets a stay of execution but suspicions falls on Gramm, as evidence incriminating him crops up. As if that weren't plot enough, Gramm gets a phone call telling him he has 88 minutes to live.
Why 88 minutes? Good question.
Well, it is connected to the death of his sister many years ago and ... um ... really, who cares? None of it holds together. Just know the cast is filled with nubile pretties who don't do a whole lot, but desperately try to divert your attention from the all-too-obvious culprit. You know things are bad when you guess the killer's identity and motive long before the "brilliant" protagonist does. Oh, and there's a character named Guy LeForge. Really. I guess screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson figured Pepe LePew was taken.
Pacino grunts and sighs and rolls his eyes in typical Pacino fashion but with half the gusto you'd expect. He knows he's slumming and a big fat paycheck can be the only excuse for his appearance in this turkey. That or he's banging twentysomething co-star Alicia Witt. And speaking of Witt, what has happened to this bright young actress? Here she's reduced to shifty looks and barely contained smirks — as if she can't decide whether she's the villain or just thinks the whole enterprise is one big joke.
As a matter of craft, director Jon Avnet goes from mediocre (Fried Green Tomatoes, Up Close and Personal) to failing the basics of film school in record time. He tries in vain to energize the film's lethargic pace with choppy, slow-motion reaction shots and fidgety zooms. He can't even make the real-time conceit of the film's title work. After the first (and best) 10 minutes of the ticking-clock motif, the film shows an astounding case of ADD, losing all urgency as it meanders toward its conclusion. Inane, inept and incompetent.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.