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NEW 88 Minutes (DVD)
A College Professor (Al Pacino), Who Moonlights As A Forensic Psychiatrist For The Fbi, Receives A Death Threat That Says He Has Only 88 Minutes To Live. To Save His Life, He Must Use All His Skills And Training To Narrow Down The Possible Suspects, Which Include A Disgruntled Student, A Jilted Former Lover And A Serial Killer On Death Row.
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This may be enough to get Hollywood producers frothing at the mouth and shelling out money, but this is a classic case of a movie that should have stayed a trailer-- the concept fits best into a 30-second package. Watching this movie is like eating a stale doughnut: You see it in the box with all of yesterdays crumbs and think, "That can't be very good, but I want it." You eat it. And then you regret it until the next stale doughnut comes along.
There are 3 main problems to this movie:
1. Pacino plays Pacino: Like Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino is getting old (sorry, but it's true). This movie showcases that by juxtaposing him with a class of young co-eds that he supposedly teaches psychology to and having him flirt with them in a decidedly "dirty old man" way. Never in this movie do you think "This is Dr. Gramm, the brilliant and famous forensic psychologist." No, this is Al Pacino stumbling around and yelling into a cell phone every five minutes. As the plot unfolds (more on that later), Pacino combats the killer with cantankerous "hoo-ha!" instead of a psychologist's keen insight. And after the movie nobody even remembers his character's name; it's just Pacino. That might be ok, except that it's an old, grumpy Pacino who refuses to be filmed opposite a female over the age of 25.
2. The Plot: This is an Agatha Christie whodunit with all the investigating stripped out and replaced with shock/gore. It starts with the initial murder which has that sicko-rapist creepiness, and then once it gets going with the "88 minutes" it's just one red herring suspect after another (complete with altered flashbacks and ominous music when you see them).
3. Lack of Characters: There aren't any characters in this movie. Period. There's Pacino playing himself. There are a bunch of vapid co-eds. There's a generic serial killer with no personality (other than he likes to kill/rape people). And that's it. Pacino gets a tragic backstory, but it's the same family trauma crap we see in every crime protagonist. Everyone else is just window dressing: victims, suspects, people for Pacino to say "Hoo-ha!" to on the cell phone (I think at its core this is a cell phone commercial).
In short, unless you really like Pacino and cell phones and wonder how much Hollywood makeup can make him look like a leading man again (similar to the morbid curiosity of watching the last Indiana Jones movie), don't rent or buy this movie.
Dr. Gramm, despite being quite successful profiling crime scenes and serial killers, has terrible boundaries with his students. He flirts with them, drinks with them, and is out one night with them at a bar celebrating the fact that a serial killer (Neal McDonough) he helped send to death row has lost an appeal for clemency. Soon someone is dead and then we all arrive with Pacino staring out at his classroom, wondering which one of the clean-cut, pretty, model-like actresses is the killer.
It isn't long before we have car explosions and lots of people, including the unknown techno-voice killer, scrambling around and haunting each other on the phone. People jump from behind dark corners in garage stairwells, cryptic taunts miraculously appear, and then characters seem to suddenly get invented and written into the script for no other reason than to serve as "yet another unexpected suspect" who we all know didn't really do it. Or maybe they did. By the time we are head-first into this thing we don't really care. By the time the real killer is finally presented, we are delighted - not because we are surprised but because then we know that this convoluted and contrived mess that has all of the logic and brilliance of a 90s B-flick (see Sliver) is finally coming to an end. At some point I actually grew as exhausted as Pacino looks and lost interest and started counting how many times his character's phone rang, say, within 5 minutes. That was far more entertaining than the 108 minutes lost watching 88 Minutes.
"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.
Without pulling any punches, this movie was horrendous. The script was one of the worst I have had to stomach all year. It was cheesy, horribly written, and provided the actors with so little to work with that it actually made Al Pacino look like a fool.
A couple examples of its foolishness:
1) Early in the movie, Jack Gramm helps a student who has been injured. In 15 minutes (we know because the movie is counting down actual time in minutes), the student manages to allow police to question her, have her injuries treated (we know this happened because she shows up again soon looking great!), go to Gramm's office for files, and show up at an apartment. All this in 15 minutes? In a major city, to boot.
2) Near the end of the movie, the killer allows a woman tethered to a rope to slip down 20 feet. She pulls the rope back up with little effort, and in a few seconds. Later in the scene, the woman slips again, but this time 2 grown, healthy men struggle to pull the rope (and the woman) back up to safety.
Another beef I had with this flick: product placement. Between the non-stop MSNBC promotion, the director slips in Dogpile.com and Terminex ads. Please, no commercials with my movie...thank you very much.
Bottom line...this is one of the worst films I have viewed in 2008. Watch it at your own risk. And then avoid all future films by this writer and director.