April 24, 2008
Review - " 88 Minutes " (in Theaters) - By Ken Ellis
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Review: "88 Minutes" (in theatres now)
A Sony Pictures Entertainment release. Directed by Jon Avnet. Screenplay, Gary Scott
Thompson. Starring Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, Neal McDonough
and William Forsythe.
Al Pacino is at it again, this time playing a professional expert witness in criminal psychiatry
who is given only 88 minutes to live by an nefarious caller. While this has all the elements of a
potential top notch thriller, it is the non-sensical script and phoned-in performances that sink
this film down to made-for TV movie level.
The film starts off with two young women in a Seattle apartment in 1997. A creepy perp sneaks in and kills one girl before
screams from the other girl scare him away. The perp, Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) is eventually caught. During his trial,
expert witness Jack Gramm tells the jury that he is guilty and will kill again if allowed to go free. Hearing this and other
evidence (the surviving girl IDs him, even though she only saw him in a virtually unlit room), he is convicted and sentenced
to death row. The film then flashes forward ten years. Gramm is now not only still teaching at a local university, but a
national celebrity in the field of professional criminal psychiatry expert witnessing, if is there such a thing. Forster is nearing
his execution date and still crying innocent. Then Jack gets a death threat on his cellphone - he only has 88 minutes to
live! While most people would contact the police, who have methods of locating a cellphone caller, Jack decides to
investigate this on his own, as well as also investigating a string of copycat murders done in the style of the Forster killings.
Off we go, on a whirlwind spree of confusing non-sequitur plot devices. There's the college students Jack teaches, some of
whom seem to have a stake in this. There's Leelee Sobieski's character, who was assaulted by a leather jacketed man;
Alicia Witt's character, who is being stalked by an ex-husband, and another male student character who serves little or no
purpose other than to suspect Jack. And with good reason, since we learn later in the film that Jack's DNA, semen and
fingerprints are found at a crime scene. Apparently expert witnesses have to give DNA and fingerprint samples in Seattle.
Pacino and Witt never really get us to buy what they are selling,
Avnet never really sells the story and the script is a complete mess.
Instead of Pacino giving us a man who should be a bit worried about all
of this, we see a man who seems tired and confused. Witt is no help either,
for example giving us a senior class play performance 'shriek' when she
should be shocked and frightened upon seeing a murder scene. A film
like this might have been fine with some TV stars in a 1970s movie of the
week, but it is not what we should expect from Al Pacino. Then again,
maybe it is and maybe that's the problem.