Inanity and incompetence form an imposing tag team in 88 Minutes, the current favorite for 2008’s dumbest movie. “Narrative is based on fact. Based on logic,” declares F.B.I. forensic psychologist and Seattle professor Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) early in the film, and irony must be what director Jon Avnet and writer Gary Scott Thompson were after, since this thriller is guided by a desire to flip off realism and plausibility at every turn. Gramm is a hotshot whose testimony single-handedly sent serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) to death row, though a series of new murders afford him a stay of execution at just the same moment that Gramm receives a phone call informing him that he has 88 minutes to live. Why 88? It has something to do with the slaying of his little sister years earlier, but trying to piece together the film’s puzzle is like trying to drunkenly run through a brick wall: futile, and apt to give one a headache. Every character goes out of their way to glance about shiftily, though Alicia Witt’s performance as Gramm’s teacher’s assistant is a thing of particular unsightliness, her turn so gawky and unnatural that it’s unclear if the actress is trying to convey suspiciousness or simply social (mental?) retardation. Pacino, meanwhile, offers up innumerable Pacino-isms with such lethargy that it seems he’s thinking about the quickest route to the bank so he can cash his checks, resulting in a general dearth of energy that’s not improved by Avnet’s penchant for zooms and slow-motion effects that wouldn’t pass muster in an intro cinematography course. After lots of yelling, phone calls, diving out of the path of a speeding fire engine, and being forced to converse with that blond lunkhead from The O.C., Gramm solves the crime and then suggests that maybe he did originally lie under oath to secure the (clearly guilty) Forster’s conviction because, well, “Justice and truth—where do they intersect?” Wha?!? Still, for sheer silliness, nothing in 88 Minutes tops the fact that Witt’s English ex-con husband boasts the ridiculously fanciful name Guy LaForge, presumably because “Fakey McMake-Believe” was already taken.
- Columbia Pictures
- 108 min
- Jon Avnet
- Gary Scott Thompson
- Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger, Benjamin McKenzie, Neal McDonough
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