Review: 88 Minutes C

A Film Review By Stefan Vlahov

88 Minutes is not the final nail in the coffin of Al Pacino’s career as some people have labeled it, but one thing is true – this is a bad film, and another in a string of bad career moves that have made me approach the great actor’s starers with obvious reluctance. Not to mention that I am just getting over the fact that Pacino did Steven Soderbergh the favor of staring in Ocean’s Thirteen, and it becomes clear that 88 Minutes couldn’t have come at a worse time. Yet, harsher critics of this film have decided to ignore the fact that Al Pacino is the one that almost saves this film and makes long stretches of it watchable. One of those long stretches is the first act as it is the best one in the film, both technically and story-wise. Here, terrible director Jon Avnet uses the most creative camera-work in the film and actually sets up the scenes just right, and adds weight to their existence. For in the beginning of the film is when all the tension of the film is spent. Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) has helped in the conviction of serial killer Jon Foster (Neal McDonough) who is then sentenced to get the death penalty. Shortly after, a copycat of Foster starts killing in the same way that Foster did, and then Dr. Gramm gets a phone call that he has only 88 minutes to live… By this point in the film 19 minutes have already passed, and while they are not 19 minutes of amazing cinema they are definitely better executed than what happens after that phone call. Avnet has never been good, but he seems to have a greater ability in rendering effective and affecting scenes in the calmer moments of the film. Al PAcino is very helpful here of course as he displays this character in the most emotive way possible. We like Dr. Gramm from the start and the phone call that threatens his life is almost dreaded. It is also dreaded for another reason – it marks the beginning of the film’s downfall. The film turns into a game of cat-and-mouse that is so cliched it should be pulled-off with ease by even the least accomplished director. But Jon Avnet either fails because he tries too hard, or because he is the most incompetent filmmaker on this side of the pond. Whichever one of those it is, what transpires on screen is ridiculous and made me pray for at least one more Al Pacino dialogue scene. The ‘action’ scenes in this thing are so badly shot and put together, that at one point I just decided that what I was looking at was some psycho’s feverish fantasy about a method of torture that includes but is not limited to playing the same scene over and over again in one’s head until they wished Jon Foster or whoever the serial killer is now would walk out of the screen and kill them in whatever style he wanted. Because I didn’t care by the end. Or did I? The last scenes of the film is the other long stretch of watchable cinema that can be found in this film. Granted, Pacino milks them for all of their thematic and emotional weight, but they feel almost like a piece of sublime peacefulness after the mess that just transpired. In the end, the emotional scenes did not work for me as well as they should have. Pacino does his best of course, though one feels that Avnet is undeserving of this effort and in fact this whole movie is undeserving of it. It is that effort in the end, that keeps it from living up to its overtly negative label.

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