"88 Minutes" A film review by Gary Chew
It was 1950. A film fave of Edmond O'Brien fans was released: "D.O.A." Remember? O'Brien is covertly and fatally poisoned at the outset and diagnosed that he'll die in a few days, so he sets out to find out who's 'killed' him.
Now we've got Al Pacino stalking sets in Seattle to find who's going to kill him. And the killer is kind enough to advise Mr. Pacino ahead of time when it will happen. Yip. Eighty-eight minutes out is when the first cell phone call comes in.
Jack Gramm (Pacino) is a forensic psychologist who is also an unmarried professor at a local university. He specializes in serial killers. With no thought to originality, screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson uses a traumatic episode earlier in Jack's family life that compels him to give at least 110% bringing in these sickos to face their just punishment. Does Fox Mulder's little sister being abducted by aliens ring a bell?
Dr. Jack Gramm is a womanizer too. But he's a reputable womanizer. He doesn't sleep with his students or his patients. Now we can move on.
Jon Forster, played by Neal McDonough, has been imprisoned and sentenced to die for the grotesque serial murder of a young woman. At trial, Dr. Gramm's testimony lends considerable weight to Forster's conviction.
Now after many years there are not many hours left before Forster's execution as more serial murders occur. These killings replicate the earlier murder allegedly done by Forster----still incarcerated. Is Forster innocent and Jack Gramm's testimony bogus or is someone trying to get even with the good but swinging doctor?
There's much distraction trying to answer that question since most of the other characters in "88 Minutes" are young, intelligent, beautiful women of the campus who all seem to covet a sleep-over at Dr. Gramm's posh flat.
There's Alicia Witt (an actress not seen enough), Leelee Sobieski, "Judging" Amy Brenneman and the always-pained Deborah Kara Unger. Ms. Unger will always be remembered as James Spader's maladjusted spouse (I'm being nice) in David Cronenburg's delightful "Crash" from 1996.
A couple of male students (Benjamin McKenzie and Stephen Moyer) are brought into the story's periphery to make the whodunit a little more tricky. And still formulaically, there's the tough gumshoe special agent guy (William Forsythe) who's been on previous capers with Dr. Gramm.
"88 Minutes" is directed by Jon Avnet for young demographics. My guess is: late junior high to early college age moviegoers. All the young characters in the script are smart, glib, mature and totally unbelievable. (Alicia Witt is usually very convincing in the roles she does. I urge you to see another film with her.)
Mr. Pacino is the only 'older' person in the film who seems to have these enviable traits despite the fact that he was right at Social Security age when "88 Minutes" was shot. But hey, anybody who can give such a great performance as Al did in the role of Joe McCarthy's confidant, Roy Cohn in "Angels in America" can do as many bad movies he wants. We all know Al Pacino is a superb actor. He tears up the set in this one with all the Pacino joie de vivre we've come to love.
The Seattle shoot must have been a hoot for Al, what with working on the set among 8 to 10 women, most young enough to be his daughter. There's about a half-second of upper nudity in the movie. And a couple of the ladies in it prefer persons of the same gender, but most of that is rather low-key. What's not so low-key is the way the serial killer strings up victims on a rope by one leg and proceeds to kill them---slowly.
I include this movie in my list of reviews that are titled, " Worth Talking About" because it's good to be reminded once in while just how much Hollywood has changed from 1950 to 2008.
"D.O.A." was fine film noir. Edmond O'Brien looked great seeking his own killer. Pacino attempting to foil someone wanting to dispatch him reveals disappointing slippage over these 58 years. "88 Minutes" might be better titled as "Feckless in Seattle."
"88 Minutes" preview