I fear for the future of Al Pacino's career. If 88 Minutes is any indication — and I think it might be — he should stop. Now. Or stick to cameos because his near-constant presence in 88 Minutes is an exercise in frustration. And sure, much of the movie is frustrating. It's not all his fault, not by a long shot. I'm just so baffled by how an actor so revered could have one facial expression to offer. I fear he'll fall into the same category as Diane Keaton — every performance one-note, and that note makes us cringe. It makes me wonder if there's really much there at all. And that sucks.
The movie follows the successful Seattle forensic psychiatrist and professor Jack Gramm (Pacino, with an extra six inches of puffy hair adding to his height) whose testimony in the trial of serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) helped send Forster to death row. However, now that the killer's execution date has arrived, there have been murders occurring in the city that mirror Forster's, casting doubt on his guilt and causing his lawyers to call for a stay of execution. Meanwhile, Gramm receives a phone call telling him he has 88 minutes to live. This is where the story actually picks up a little, so read more.
What follows is a race against time as everyone in Gramm's life becomes suspected of trying to kill him, including his loyal assistant Shelley (Amy Brenneman), his assistant teacher Kim (Alicia Witt) and some of his best students, like Lauren (Leelee Sobieski) and Mike (Ben McKenzie). He runs around, evading bombs and gunmen and fires (and I feel sorry for Pacino that he has to run so much in this film because he seems like he'd prefer to settle in for a nap), trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.
In my memory of this movie, I can't distinguish one scene from another. There is no real suspense, no big surprise, no satisfying pull of tension and release. They talk about scary, nasty things, and they show a few yucky images (and, to their credit, the violence is not gratuitous) but there is nothing — absolutely nothing — underlying it all. The most dramatic scene features Al Pacino hurling a cell phone away from him, and the slow motion descent and shattering of the phone. And it's so ridiculous I would have laughed — if I weren't so worried for Al Pacino and his future.
To see the trailer and more clips from 88 Minutes check out movies.ivillage.com.