88 Minutes Review

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Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm (Pacino) helped convict rapist-murderer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough). Now, on the eve of Forster’s execution, a series of copycat murders puts his conviction in doubt, and an anonymous call tells Gramm he has only 88 minutes to live.


It can’t be easy being Al Pacino; knowing that, no matter what you do, there’s little chance it will live up to The Godfather, Serpico or Heat. Still, that’s no reason to make dross that wouldn’t live up to Gigli. Surely even a glance at this script would have revealed that the film would be an overblown, tangled mess with more than a hint of misogyny about it? It was certainly evident to the kind-hearted studio exec who shelved it for two years. The question is, which wiseguy decided to dust it off and release it?

Pacino plays Dr. Jack Gramm, a cocksure forensic psychiatrist of the sort that largely died out when thrillers became a little bit cleverer after the ’80s finished. He sleeps with women 40 years younger than him, but that’s okay because he has a Tragedy In His Past. One of his great successes was the conviction of serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) but a series of copycat killings calls Forster’s conviction into doubt and Gramm’s professionalism into question. Did Gramm lie under oath? Does he have a personal vendetta? Do you care?

To add to Gramm’s woes, he’s framed for the new murders and told that he only has 88 minutes to live by an anonymous caller with detailed knowledge of his Past Tragedy. Pacino reacts to this with all the urgency of Rip Van Winkle, and spends the next hour tracking down apparently unconnected leads, spending 90 per cent of his time on the phone (not thrilling) and reacting in mute astonishment as Mr. Anonymous delivers further reminders of his imminent fate.

Everyone here, even Pacino, appears to have been told to act like Miss Marple houseguests, throwing significant glares from beneath lowered brows. Deborah Kara Unger makes the most sinister impression per minute of screentime, but Leelee Sobieski is the most laughably suspicious, with the other women (Benjamin McKenzie is the token suspicious male) circling Pacino’s possibly corrupt hero only to be horribly killed, tied to a chair or condemned to pointlessness. Perhaps we are meant to deduce that, in this world, no-one’s hands are clean. What we in fact conclude is that poor direction has caused a massive outbreak of over-acting.

It verges on so-bad-it’s-good territory, but just isn’t entertaining enough. Lacking in tension and pace, poorly edited and starring wholly unsympathetic characters, this is just dull, drab and boring.