I am a little surprised to see "88 Minutes" theatrically released in America. The film also managed to reach No.4 at the box office chart. After all the film has Al Pacino, perhaps the only reason the film didn't go straight to DVD. But maybe it should have.
"88 Minutes" starts with one unnecessary murder scene and one insipid courtroom scene after that, both of which would tell us what kind of film we are going to see. A "killer" Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) is caught, and in his trial Al Pacino's character forensic psychiatrist and college professor Dr. Jack Gramm gives a testimony, which decides the fate of the accused - death sentence. Unfortunately, nothing is believable, convincing and most importantly thrilling in this terribly directed opening part.
And the film gets worse from there. Cue to nine years later. Jon Forster is going to be executed today, but another murder (with a similar MO and a video tape, too) shocks the authority. Then Jack, who believes it is a copycat case, receives a threatening call telling he has only 88 minutes left to live (accompanied with "tick-tock"). The persistent messages never stop (some of which Jack receives in written form) and Jack starts to take them seriously.
Sadly, none of us would because of the film's utter silliness. I cannot write in detail here, but things get more and more preposterous as the contrived story goes on. I know any thrillers need suspension of disbelief, but mine just ran out when I saw overacting Al Pacino's character running wild holding a gun in the city of Seattle. Also, according to the conclusion, the criminal (or criminals?) are so smart and resourceful like John McClane that almost anything is possible.
You probably know this, but "88 Minutes" employs a unique narrative gimmick similar to the one seen in, say, "Nick of Time"; that is, from the very moment Jack is told that he has only 88 minutes left to live, the film runs exactly the same amount of time - 88 minutes, which feels much longer than it actually is. The concept of real-time "88 minutes" is rather pointless because a good thriller would make us forget its running time. But this does not happen here.
The film's cast includes Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski and Deborah Kara Unger. The supports (which also include William Forsythe) are interesting and I know they are all talented, but I'm afraid Jon Avnet's badly-directed film would only make us believe otherwise. I wish that his next film "Righteous Kill" starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino would be a better one.