Okay. You’ve just awakened in a strange woman’s apartment, you’re being set-up for a set of murders you’re pretty sure you didn’t commit and oh yeah…you only have 88 minutes to live.
That is the premise of Al Pacino’s latest film, aptly titled “88 Minutes,” a roller-coaster ride thriller that follows a very stressful day in the life of Dr. Jack Gramm, a college professor and legendary forensic psychiatrist for the FBI who helped put away the infamous Seattle Slayer, Jon Forster, (played by Neal McDonough) by testifying against him after he allegedly raped and gruesomely murdered a woman. Gramm’s testimony is key in sentencing Forster to death and that’s where the fun begins.
Fast-forward nine years. Forster has run out of appeals and is awaiting his final hours on death row. But before his time is up, Forster attempts a last-minute shot at a stay of execution by going on television and accusing Gramm of deliberately sending the wrong man to prison. With charismatic wit, Forster declares his innocence, branding Gramm as an egomaniac who lied under oath and frequently uses psychological theory over fact to condemn his victims.
Despite the fact that Forster is behind bars, the Seattle Slayer murders have started again and Gramm, an arrogant womanizer with a haunted past, begins receiving mysterious phone calls telling him he only has 88 minutes to live.
Are the calls being made by Forster? Did Gramm perjure himself just to preserve his stellar reputation as a psychiatrist who always gets his man? Could one of Gramm’s former jilted lovers be behind this insidious plot and will Gramm figure it all out in time to save his life?
Directed by Jon Avnet (Red Corner), the story has several twists, including a subplot involving Pacino and a potential love interest played by Alicia Witt who has personal problems of her own. Lee Lee Sobieski, Amy Brennerman (Judging Amy) and William Forsythe, round out the supporting cast.
I’ve read several reviews of this movie, most of them pretty harsh, but I have to say that overall, I enjoyed “88 Minutes.” Yes, there’s a lot going on for most of the film’s 1- hour-48-minute running time, which can leave the viewer feeling a bit discombobulated; and the presence of Pacino’s big hair in some scenes is a tad distracting. And sure, there were some moments in the movie where I found myself muttering, “You have got to be kidding!” under my breath but I guess, perhaps because I am such a fan of Pacino, those minor annoyances were easy for me to overlook.
With “88 Minutes,” Pacino gives one of his best performances in recent years, portraying Gramm, a man who seems driven to succeed at all costs, with a sincerity reminiscent of his earlier work in films like “The Godfather” and “Dog Day Afternoon.” A master craftsman when he wants to be, Pacino proves he still has the ability to hone in on a character and perform with a subtly that many critics feel has been lost in some of his more recent pictures. There’s a lot less yelling and gesticulating on Pacino’s part in this film. He conveyed more with his eyes and with underrated movement and speech than he has in anything I’ve seen him in a long time and I liked that. Sure, Shakespeare “88 Minutes” was not but it was pretty entertaining and I have to admit, it kept me guessing up until the very end.
“88 Minutes” is rated R. It has one brief nude scene and there is some language and plenty of violence.