“88 minutes is a waste of time.”

Fundamentals. In basketball it doesn’t matter how many outside jumpers you hit if you can’t make the free throws. It always comes back to the fundamentals of the sport. In film making you can have the most talented actors in Hollywood and the state of the art effects, but if you don’t have the writing, nothing will salvage your movie. Not even Al Pacino. I was excited going into 88 Minutes. I am a fan of Pacino and I had not seen a decent cat and mouse psycho thriller in sometime. So I was ready. Then 88 minutes later I was just ready to leave! This movie simply lacked the writing skills to elevate it above the average Friday night “made for TV” fodder. The cast, the story line, the suspense; all meant nothing when mixed in with unrealistic dialogue and characters that were created to say and do things that bordered on idiotic. Now, if there are women out there who do brush their teeth while simultaneously doing nude stand up yoga then I stand corrected.

This film started out on the right path. It had a decent psychotic character and the eerie serial killer motif. Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) is a forensic psychiatrist and college professor who has been given 88 minutes to live by an unidentified madman. He assumes it is the workings of a death row inmate that he helped put away 9 years earlier and is now up for execution. The rest of the film has Gramm trying to solve the mystery while staying one step ahead of the killer. He doesn’t know who to trust and even his students and friends become possible suspects. Jack is caught in a paranoid maze that links past and present events into a web of clues. Too bad the film wasn’t written as well as my description of it. I could blame it on the director but the lines the characters say are so bad I am not sure any direction would have helped.

At times I felt like each scene was shot in a hurry. As if they did one take, looked at it, and then, instead of doing it again for better inflection or delivery, just went on to the next scene. It was like they wanted to get through it as quick as possible and be done. So what you have are young actors trying to do the best they can with the lines they are given but knowing there is no hope of salvaging them. If not for the brilliance of Pacino there would be no saving this film. But he carries it as much as he can on his 5’7’’ frame. You dress Pacino in black and give him a gun and tell him to say anything and it will be amazing. Too bad the rest of the ensemble didn’t have the same luck. Even the return of Leelee Sobieski who is one of my favorite younger actors was marred by bad writing. I was excited to see her in this film but pained for the cliché things they made her say and do.

It is written by Gary Scott Thompson whose only previous works are ideas like Hollow Man and Las Vegas TV scripts. And you can tell. As a writer I hate trashing other writers and I try to find any other person to blame. But here Thompson is so far out of his league and the film does come across like a bad episode of Las Vegas. Plus, he writes all his women characters as if they were brainless showgirls. Like that is supposed to be cool or remotely authentic. In a film like this it is adolescent foolishness.

88 Minutes is rated R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity and language. Other than the theme it is pretty tame for a psychotic thriller. The crime scenes are not gratuitous or blood baths. You mainly see the after effects and not the actual crimes. Plus the language is mild for what some would expect from old Sonny. As I said, this had potential but in the end it missed all the free throws and tried to rely on the 3 pointers. And ended up tossing an air ball. I give 88 Minutes 2 out of 5 pulleys. One for Al and one for the return of Sobieski.

Matt Mungle (

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and co-hosts a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

Be Sociable, Share!