Combustible Celluloid
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With: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger, Benjamin McKenzie, Neal McDonough, Leah Cairns, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Redman, Brendan Fletcher, Michael Eklund, Kristina Copeland, Tammy Hui, Vicky Huang, Victoria Tennant, Michal Yannai, Paul Campbell, Brenda McDonald, Carrie Genzel, Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Heather Dawn, Julian D. Christopher, Tim Henry
Written by: Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by: Jon Avnet
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity and language
Running Time: 108
Date: 02/14/2007

88 Minutes (2008)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Small Time

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Al Pacino stars in 88 Minutes as high-profile forensic psychologist Jack Gramm, whose testimony was almost solely responsible for the conviction of accused murderer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough). Forster is going to the chair, while maintaining his innocence, and while identical murders are still being committed throughout Seattle. At 10:17 a.m., Gramm gets a call, saying he has 88 minutes left to live. Gramm is also a university professor, and all his students, including teaching assistant Kim Cummings (Alicia Witt), Lauren Douglas (Leelee Sobieski) and Mike Stempt (Benjamin McKenzie) all act kinda creepy around him. The school's dean Carol Johnson (Deborah Kara Unger) acts creepy. Gramm's cop buddy Frank Parks (William Forsythe) acts creepy. Gramm's hard-working assistant Shelly Barnes (Amy Brenneman) acts suspicious. And even the hottie that Gramm woke up with this morning, Sara Pollard (Leah Cairns), acts weird. A suspense movie is supposed to give us red herrings and multiple suspects, but all the other supposedly innocent characters still spend the movie acting weird, and we end up not liking anyone. Doing the math, this many bad performances equals one bad director: Jon Avnet. Working from a screenplay by the equally unimpressive Gary Scott Thompson (Hollow Man and its sequels, The Fast and the Furious and its sequels, etc.), Avnet immediately betrays his mistrust in the audience with an awkward, overwritten prologue. Thereafter, characters constantly add a few extra words to their dialogue, helpfully describing what we can already see. Besides that, 88 Minutes feels as if it were dashed off and never double-checked. Ideas come up and are dropped. If only the film actually ran 88 minutes instead of 108, the many glaring logic loopholes might have whizzed by without notice. But like a bad apple, that extra 20 minutes of wasted film has rotted the rest.

DVD Details: Sony's DVD comes with a dull director's commentary track and two dull featurettes (talking heads, clips, etc.). An alternate ending has a little speech about captial punishment. The best part is the giant gallery of Sony trailers, including a new one for Quantum of Solace. 88 Minutes

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