88 Minutes, directed by Jon Avnet, is a film that should have been released straight-to-video. 88 Minutes is boring and average, helped in no part by Al Pacino’s presence. Pacino is obviously the draw to see the film but aside from one specific moment in the film, he gives you exactly what you would expect from him, nothing further. Pacino could play his character 88 Minutes, Dr. Jack Gramm, in his sleep.
There is no depth to any of the characters in 88 Minutes, which isn’t really any of the actors’ faults. There is only so much you can do with a blandly written character you are portraying. Dr. Gramm, along with his friend and FBI agent Frank Parks (William Forsythe), do their best to act through what screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson has given them and in a few instances, raise the bar of this film.
The plot of 88 Minutes follows a well-off forensic psychiatrist and college professor (Al Pacino) as he awaits the execution of serial killer Jon Forester (Neal McDonough), whom he helped put behind bars with his psychological profile and testimony. On the day of the execution is to transpire, Dr. Gramm receives a mysterious phone call by a modulated voice informing him that he has 88 minutes left to live.
As a film, where 88 Minutes succeeds is that Dr. Gramm is so earnest in his suspicion of everyone around him possibly collaborating with Forester, the viewer is constantly kept guessing as to the identity of the accomplice as well. Where 88 Minutes failed, before the film even began, was that some of the more marquee action sequences in the film have been spoiled by its advertisement campaign. Unlike similarly afflicted films though, 88 Minutes keeps a few notable ones behind closed doors until you actually sit down to watch the film. One such instance is the true meaning of 88 minutes, how that is relevant, how its history affects Dr. Gramm’s personality and the perilous predicament he finds himself in. Even with the meanings’ well-acted deliverance, 88 Minutes is not saved from its “normal” cop/detective thriller ending or its “I’ve seen this before-ness.” What I am alluding to by “normal” is that the viewer is given a standard, morality tale friendly conclusion: the bad guy is revealed, there is a confrontation, what usually happens, happens and then the credits roll. You have seen it all before, in some cases on television, but regardless, you have seen it better than in this 88 Minutes.