Review by Robert Bell
Shelved for over a year and featuring a fancy new prologue, 88 Minutes hasn't had an easy time making it to the big screen. There are many reasons why a studio might choose to sit on a movie for an extended period of time. One of these reasons includes the potential marketability of the film's star; if they have a television show coming, or a higher profile film coming, they may be able to draw a larger audience at a later time with increased exposure. Some other culprits may be a multiplex crowded with films of a similar genre, or the general quality of the film itself.
It seems that the latter issue is explanation for the delayed release of 88 Minutes. While the film certainly isn't horrible, being relatively engaging for the first hour, it is somewhat forgettable. Luckily there are discussions of manipulated semen, bizarre lesbian love trysts, cackling villains, and crazy motorcycle driving French-Canadians named Guy LaForge.
Forensic Psychiatrist/University professor Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) has given an expert testimony that put suspected serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonaugh) on death row. Coming up on the execution date, a copycat killer has come to light, using the same M.O. to kill young women.
On the day of the execution, Dr. Gramm receives a suspect phone call telling him that he has only 88 minutes to live. With the aid of his reliable lesbian assistant Shelly (Amy Brenneman), and his daddy-issue ridden T.A. Kim Cummings (Alicia Witt), Dr. Gramm uses his forensic skills to try and find out who has targeted him.
Screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson (K9, Hollow Man 2) is mediocre at best. While a great deal of attention is played to the central mystery, throwing in red herrings and clues that are effectively subtle and revealing at the same time, the script eventually writes itself into a corner, leaving the last half hour of the film to strain in credulity. Characters are also underwritten and underused for the most part as well. We're given a bit of insight into the motivations and goings on of Dr. Gramm, but nothing new or particularly engaging.
Another issue with the script, which also topples over into direction is that pesky sense of urgency. 88 Minutes is intended to be a real time thriller with a ticking clock, yet Pacino has time to sit around his apartment with his horny T.A while she babbles about her feelings. This is in addition to the many hoops the "killer" would have to jump through in order to kidnap, manipulate, and kill so many people in such a short amount of time.
Performances are bland and unremarkable for the most part. Al Pacino does a passable job with his conflicted cop role. He's played this part so many times before that it really doesn't require a great deal of effort on his part, but his performance here holds no torch to the one he laid out with a similar character in the far superior Insomnia. Alicia Witt is pleasant and likable throughout, despite playing a thinly sketched and fairly uninteresting role. She's the kind of actress who will eventually get a part perfectly suited for her and show the world what she's capable of, but this one isn't it. Very little is required of the additional supporting cast-members and as such, they all turn in their minimum professional requirements.
Some other issues with the film include lackluster direction, lousy production values and a cheesy porn quality soundtrack.
88 Minutes is a film that starts out with an interesting premise, partially delivering the goods, only to fall into a pit of contrived implausibility. Filmmakers should know by now that extended finales with serial killers explaining their motivations are groan-inducing to an educated demographic.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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