Sony // 2008 // 107 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // September 16th, 2008
88 Minutes is a bad movie, pure and simple. However, there are two major types of poorly made movies in the universe of cinema. There are those that embrace their mediocrity, making them highly viewable. And, then there are those that take themselves seriously, making them just plain terrible and consigned to the dustbin of history. Where does 88 Minutes belong? I'll give you a hint: this film should not have been made.
In 1997, forensic psychiatrist and university professor Dr. Jack Gramm's (Al Pacino, Heat) expert testimony is the critical evidence that puts Jon Forster (Neal McDonough, Flags Of Our Fathers) behind bars and on death row for a series of murders in Seattle. Fast forward nine years, the day of Forster's execution, Gramm wakes up to find out that one of his students was murdered in the same manner as the murders attributed to Forster. Soon after, Gramm gets a phone call telling him that he has 88 minutes to live. This is followed by a call telling him that he has 83 minutes left, followed by another one saying that he has 79 minutes left. And then an overhead slide reminding him that only 76 minutes remain. And then a reminder that 72 minutes are left is written on his car. And then -- well, you get the picture.
Is a copycat killer lurking? Is Forster innocent? Who's calling Gramm? Who's the mysterious man in the motorcycle outfit? Why does everyone make suspicious looking glances? Why does the camera spin about so much?
88 Minutes, directed by Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) and written by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast And The Furious), is a textbook example of how not to make a thriller. This is a car wreck from start to finish, filled with unnecessary flashbacks, too many twists, laughably incredulous actions by the protagonist, even more ridiculous information revelations as the climax approaches, lame attempts at suspense, and over-the-top music. If you didn't know any better, you might think that 88 Minutes was intended to be a cheap horror/slasher film. Interestingly, that would probably represent an improvement.
Just when does 88 Minutes go unambiguously off a cliff? Is it the amateurishly shot opening murder scene? Is it the awful courtroom dialogue that begins to unspool at the six minute mark? Is it at about the nine minute mark that sees Pacino waking up to the song "Ms. New Booty" playing on a clock-radio and turning to gaze upon a naked woman, young enough to be his daughter, brushing her teeth with a battery-power toothbrush while standing on one leg because she's doing a ballet stretch? Like any bad film, it is an avalanche of increasingly appalling and nonsensical incidents that spell doom. By the time the film reveals the significance of the "88 minutes to live" threat, you'll be far past caring and shake your head at how inane it is, assuming that you make it that far into the movie.
It goes without saying that the acting is terrible. Pacino looks bored, tired, and uninterested, although he occasionally reverts into his patented and annoying shouting mode. You would think that a person receiving a threat that they had 88 minutes to live would be nervous or concerned. Not Pacino's Gramm. In fact, he doesn't seem to care much when he hears people he knows have been murdered, when he finds his car vandalized, when his car explodes into a fiery wreck, or even when he finds someone he knows brutally murdered. Nothing bothers him, at all. The rest of the cast, which, along with McDonough, includes Deborah Kara Unger (The Game), William Forsythe (Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo), Leelee Sobieski (Eyes Wide Shut), Amy Brenneman (Heat), and Alicia Witt (Two Weeks Notice), are a bit more animated than Pacino, but they are all levelled to nothingness by the illogic of the dialogue and actions they must perform. McDonough fares best (or, more accurately, suffers the least humiliation), if only because he probably has the fewest scenes.
The few extras are of little value. Avnet provides a commentary track, where he speaks as though he seriously believes that this is a good movie with an interesting story and quality performances. He describes research he did on serial killers, praises Pacino highly, and also, more than once, admires his camera work. Avnet also tries to provide, a little too earnestly, a rationale for Pacino's morose performance as Gramm. In a short featurette, "Director's Point Of View," Avnet continues the themes from the commentary. Pacino gives his thoughts on the Gramm character and the film in the short "The Character Within" featurette. Pacino, like Avnet, tries, unconvincingly, to provide the reasoning behind his performance. He also praises Avnet and the cast. The final extra is an "alternate ending," which is really just an extended ending. The contents of this are no more or less silly than the preceding action, so it's a mystery why it was cut. Then again, it's a mystery that this film received a theatrical release.
If you like bad movies, you might like this. But, you'll probably find it more boring than campy.
The video and audio transfers, for better or worse, are excellent, so you can see and hear all aspects of this travesty without impairment. The print is clean, sharp, and detailed when the film doesn't cut to flashback sequences. The 5.1 surround track delivers all the mind-numbing dialogue and generic soundtrack in crystal clear fashion.
I watched this movie. That's 107 minutes of my life gone forever. You don't have to do the same thing. Save yourself. Enough said.
Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! For the love of all that is good and decent, get this trash out of my courtroom now!
Review content copyright © 2008 Roy Hrab; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 6.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Alternate Ending
* Commentary with Director Jon Avnet
* "Director's Point of View"
* "The Character Within"