A gimmicky thriller written by the creator of "Las Vegas" and directed by Jon Avnet ("Red Corner", "Fried Green Tomatoes"), "88 Minutes" stars Al Pacino as forcensic psychologist Jack Gramm, who was the one responsible for putting slayer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) behind bars. A college professor, Gramm thinks that it's all over, but one of his students winds up being victimized in a way similar to Gramm's.
Gramm is already devastated from the news, but is even more shocked when - moments after he's informed of the incident by federal agents, he gets a telephone call telling him that he's got 88 minutes left to live. Frantic to try and find who's behind it all, Gramm finds himself in an increasingly paranoid cat and mouse game with the time running out. There's not much more to the movie than the main chase.
Some of the suspects event include a couple of his students (played by "The O.C."'s Benjamin McKenzie and Leelee Sobieski, "Deep Impact"), the university dean (Deborah Kara Unger)and even his assistant (Amy Brenneman). The movie gives a little effort to shuffle the possible blame around, but most will probably guess the character behind it all before the end.
Avnet isn't exactly the first choice that would come to mind to direct what should be a tight, tense thriller and the results are as uneven as one might expect, considering the lack of action in Avnet's resume. The majority of the movie is a cat-and-mouse chase, and that kind of movie needs a director who has experience in the genre and who can maintain tension. I have to say I'm a little surprised that Pacino (as well as Robert Deniro) signed on for Avnet's next movie after this one.
Another issue with "88 Minutes" is that it's not particularly tight - despite the title, it actually runs about 108 minutes - and while Avnet builds tension in a couple of the more intense sequences, the movie can't sustain it as some passages remain overly chatty or rather improbable. The handful of action sequences in the movie don't hold the attention quite as well as they should, as the choreography could have been improved and the movie as a whole lacks intensity and urgency. Overall, the movie feels longer than its running time, especially in the unfocused middle.
While the performances aren't too terrible, the cast has certainly been better elsewhere. Pacino's clearly on autopilot here, but the actor still remains enjoyable to watch even on cruise control. As for the others, it's not that Witt, Sobieski and MacKenzie aren't fine actors - they're all rather underappreciated actors to some degree - it's just that their characters aren't very well-defined.
Overall, "88 Minutes" had a few moments thanks to Pacino, but this is otherwise an uneven thriller that rarely built up much steam due to a lackluster (occasionally ridiculous) script and iffy direction from Avnet.
VIDEO: "88 Minutes" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). The film's visual style isn't much to write home about, but at least the presentation captures the look of the film decently and with only some scattered mild-to-moderate flaws. Sharpness and detail are respectable, as while the picture never showed pinpoint clarity, it also never fell too far into softness. Minor edge enhancement showed up in a handful of scenes and was a mild irritation. No print flaws were seen - as one might rightly expect from a new movie - but the presentation did show some slight noise in a few scenes. Colors appeared subdued throughout the show, but the low-key appearance looked to be by intent. Black level remained just adequate, and flesh tones generally looked fine. Overall, this was a pretty standard Blu-Ray presentation, although some of the issues looked to be due - at least in part - to some of the stylistic choices made by the filmmakers.
SOUND: The film's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 presentation offered a mildly engaging audio presentation, with some minor use of the surrounds for sound effects during the film's few action sequences. The majority of the audio is spread across the front, which offers a fairly wide soundstage. Audio quality was fine, with very clear dialogue and effects.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Jon Avnet and a pair of short featurettes: “Director’s Point of View” and “The Character Within”, as well as an alternate ending and promos for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "88 Minutes" starts to catch on during a few scenes thanks to Pacino, but the movie otherwise remains oddly low-key for a thriller and I'm not sure what the cast saw in the screenplay, which seems pretty generic. The Blu-Ray edition boasts only satisfactory audio/video quality and a decent helping of supplements. A lightly recommended rental for hardcore Pacino fans only.
The Film C-