Sunday, July 12, 2009

88 Minutes

88 MINUTES (Jon Avnet, 2007)

Nine years after forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) provided crucial testimony in the conviction of serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough), the verdict begins to be called into question. In 88 MINUTES a murder replicating the methods of the old crimes suggests that perhaps Forster was wrongly imprisoned.

The timing is of extreme importance since the killing comes on the eve of Forster's scheduled execution. Clues at the new murder scene open the possibility that Gramm himself is the culprit. Meanwhile, a mysterious caller informs Gramm that he has two minutes shy of an hour and a half left to live and sends him running around Seattle to stay alive and solve the crime.

88 MINUTES is the sort of overblown thriller in which every action, no matter how insignificant, is pregnant with portent, yet it's a film of nothing but red herrings. Director Jon Avnet and screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson have concocted a silly mystery that gets more outrageous and laughable as the clock ticks down to the zero minute.

Again and again 88 MINUTES torpedoes suspicion regarding Gramm and loses internal consistency. Since multiple attempts to kill Gramm occur long before time is up, it's abundantly clear that he is not guilty of what has been set up and that the film's countdown device doesn't matter at all.

The decisions made in 88 MINUTES never make any sense. When the abusive former boyfriend of Gramm's teaching assistant Kim (Alicia Witt) appears with a gun at his front door, she tells her boss to open it because the guy wouldn't hurt her. Never mind that he used to beat her and is thought to be out to kill Gramm. Sure, come on in and make yourself at home!

Equally as implausible as the conspiracy to frame Gramm is how every woman in the the film throws herself at him as though the old professor is America's heartthrob. Leave it to the movies to make it so all females are rendered powerless by the unexplained pull of his erotic magnetism.

The portrayal of Gramm's irresistibility verges on parody. That farcical quality can also be read in 88 MINUTES' preposterous mystery. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, they didn't set out to make a comedy.

Grade: D

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