88 Minutes

“What’s going on here?”

Shot two years ago and already out on DVD in Europe, “88 Minutes” is a far-fetched, boring mess. Jon Avnet’s lackluster crime thriller not only runs far too long (108 minutes, actually), but the film also gets tangled up in a brainless muddle of illogical twists and unfulfilled promises. In one of his weaker roles, Al Pacino stars as Jack Gramm, a popular forensic psychiatrist who receives a disturbing phone call telling him he has 88 minutes to live.

The basic idea of a character racing against time works beautifully in a film like “Crank” or on TV’s “24,” but Avnet clearly violates the rules of the game and develops an implausible plot devoid of anything remotely inventive or suspenseful. The script by Gary Scott Thompson is where it all starts to go wrong. The first 20 minutes of the film are incredibly uneventful, trying desperately to establish the main characters and set the starting point of what is to follow.

I’m willing to believe the film runs exactly 88 minutes from the moment Gramm receives his ominous phone call, but by then, it’s almost too late. With time running out, Gramm spends most of the film narrowing down suspects in an effort to solve his own potential murder. The bad news is that Thompson’s script introduces more suspicious characters than we can handle. From one of Gramm’s students to a serial killer already on death row, the list of suspects is monstrous.

The film is supposed to enter real time once Gramm is told he’s going to die in 88 minutes, but it quickly becomes clear this is logically impossible. It’s hard to describe the mess that follows. All Gramm engages in during the rest of the film is running around Seattle, talking on the phone, dodging bullets and hunting for clues. Chances are you’ll also quickly figure out who’s behind the entire conspiracy, because the filmmakers do an awful job at keeping the identity of the villain secret.

Despite the talented actor he is, Al Pacino has certainly had his share of bad flicks, and “88 Minutes” is undoubtedly one of his worst. His performance as Gramm remains shallow and static throughout, proving he may not necessarily be the right guy for this genre anymore. The supporting cast is mediocre at best, featuring empty performances by Alicia Witt, William Forsythe and Leelee Sobieski.

“88 Minutes” is not exactly a wild ride. Jon Avnet’s direction is annoying for the most part (what’s up with all his zooming?), and the lame cinematography and editing certainly don’t make the film any better. I highly recommend you save your money and wait for Avnet’s next big screen adventure ”Righteous Kill.” I’m not sure whether the movie will be a major improvement over this disaster, but at least it pairs Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the lead roles.

Review by Franck Tabouring