Pacino’s ’88 Minutes’ is 82 too long

Chris Kallio

Sobieski joins in this failed attempt at a murder-thriller hit


Credit: Ron Soltys

88 Minutes

Starring Al Pacino, Neal McDonough, Leelee Sobieski

Directed by Jon Avnet

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Rated R

Stater rating (out of five): **

88 Minutes, an attempt to thrill and puzzle, ends up as a mundane and unexceptional dud.

Pacino is Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI, college professor and notorious womanizer. Awaiting the execution of Jon Forster (Neal McDonough), a man convicted of murder in which Gramm played an influential role in the court’s decision, Gramm finds himself in a jigsaw puzzle as a mysterious voice on his phone warns him that he has 88 minutes left to live.

Setting off on a chase, it is unclear if Forster actually committed the crimes he is accused of, as the exposition reveals that Gramm as a forensic psychiatrist was able to convince the jury of his guilt without any evidence. The question, therefore, is if Forster is orchestrating these incidents and threats on Gramm’s life or if he is in fact innocent. As Gramm’s time is running out, he is forced to solve this mystery among a cast of characters, which includes his teacher’s assistant, an FBI agent, an ambitious student and Gramm’s girlfriend, all while his dark past is revealed.

88 Minutes has some genuine moments of suspense and mystery but is plagued by a chaotic screenplay and unintimidating villains, making this a very hackneyed type of film. Any occurrence of mediocrity is instantly turned by a very lame twist. Among the performances, Leelee Sobieski, as one of Gramm’s students, is particularly annoying, though McDonough does a sufficient job as Forster.

This is a film in which an actor like Pacino looks really bored. His career, containing a list of too many iconic performances and brilliant films to mention, has recently only seen a few unnoticed gems such as Insomnia, Angels in America and The Merchant of Venice.

Next to these films, however, are such disasters as Any Given Sunday, The Recruit and Two for the Money, and mediocre movies like S1m0ne and Ocean’s Thirteen. Pacino, among those who became prominent in the 1970s, should count his blessings in the fact that he is still considered a leading man in Hollywood. But in this film he is desperate need of a haircut, looking as if he is playing Serpico again.

Pacino has often complained about the tediousness of film acting, favoring instead the rehearsal process and live performances of the theater. 88 Minutes could not make him feel any more positive.

The fundamental problem with 88 Minutes is that it tries too hard to be Nick of Time, the innovative and unfortunately unnoticed 1995 film with Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken, with a similar plot and style. 88 Minutes’ idea is neat, but ultimately forgettable.

Contact all reporter Chris Kallio at [email protected].