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Forensic psychiatrist Dr Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) has built a reputation for himself successfully profiling serial killers, including Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) who was sentenced to death primarily on the strength of Gramm's testimony. The night before Forster is to be executed, Seattle experiences a killing that matches his crimes precisely; the victim is one of Gramm's students. With doubts raised about Forster's guilt and suspicion cast on Gramm himself, the stakes get higher when Gramm receives a phone call saying he has 88 minutes to live.

Review by Louise Keller:
With a melodramatic script that becomes more and more ludicrous, 88 Minutes is a far-fetched serial-killer thriller whose only ace is Al Pacino. What the award-winning actor is doing in this second rate film is anyone's guess, but it seems that it took four producers including director Jon Avnet and 17 executive, associate and line producers to put it together. It starts out ok, but screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson's obsession about red herrings quickly becomes tiresome, as almost every character becomes a suspect as the plot intensifies. This is an example of a self-important film that trips up on itself as readily as the murders that it is trying to solve.

In the opening scene, we witness a horrific crime in which an animal tranquilizer is used on a pretty girl before she is raped and tortured to death. It is 1997 on the day the Seattle newspaper's front page story about Princess Diana's tragic death is published. Then we meet Pacino's 'prosecutor's hired gun', the acclaimed forensic psychiatrist Jack Gramm who 'pontificates on hypotheses as though they're stone cold facts'. Gramm, who is important enough to influence juries without evidence, also charms all the women around him including his staff and students where he lectures at University. He says 'I don't sleep with my students or patients,' but our eyes tell us otherwise. He also is hiding a secret in his past - but do we care?

The story is angled at the imminent death of convicted killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) and the copy cat killings that take place before his execution. Then there is the phone call at 11.45am that tells Gramm he only has 88 minutes left to live. Tick tock. More calls. 76 minutes. 72 minutes. 56 minutes, 37 minutes... Will it ever end? Will the film ever end? There's a reference to the difference between sanity and insanity (that it rests on the concept of freewill), and that narrative is based on fact and logic.

But as we wonder whether the murderer is Leah Cairns's Sara Pollard (Gramm's latest girlfriend), Amy Brenneman's Shelly (Gramm's gay assistant), Christopher Redman's Jeremy (an intense student), Kristina Copeland's Dale (another student), Alicia Witt's Kim (student with a serious crush), Stephen Moyer's Guy (Kim's crazed ex-boyfriend), Deborah Kara Unger's Carol, Leelee Sobieski's Lauren (student with a brain) or Brendan Johnny D'Franco (tense campus security guard). Too many suspects, too many phone calls, too much melodrama. It's constantly raining in Seattle as the 88 minutes tick tock by as Gramm's Porsche is blown up, he gets himself a taxi for $100 and watches as the body count mounts. Don't bother.

Published February 19, 2009

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(US, 2007)

CAST: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger, Benjamin McKenzie

PRODUCER: Jon Avnet, Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Gary Scott Thompson


SCRIPT: Gary Scott Thompson


EDITOR: Peter E. Berger

MUSIC: Ed Shearmur


RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes



DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February 4, 2009

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