88 Minutes
dir Jon Avnet
scr Gary Scott Thompson
with Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Neal McDonough, Amy Brenneman, William Forsythe, Deborah Kara Unger Benjamin McKenzie, Leah Cairns, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Redman, Brendan Fletcher
release US 18.Apr.08, UK 3.Oct.08
07/US Columbia 1h48
88 Minutes
Hair gone wild: Pacino and Witt

sobieski mcdonough brenneman
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88 Minutes The most fun we have from this low-concept thriller is the post-viewing analysis, when the overwrought production, sieve-like plot and ludicrous characters merge into something genuinely hilarious. But that's clearly not what cast and crew were going for.

Jack Gramm (Pacino) is a forensic psychiatrist who works both as a university professor and an expert witness. He was responsible for locking up the Seattle Slayer (McDonough) a decade ago, but as the execution nears, the murders start again, centred on the women in Gramm's life: plucky classroom assistant (Witt), eager student (Sobieski), lipsticky colleague (Brenneman), prickly dean (Unger), naked gymnast bedmate (Cairns). Then he gets a call telling him he has 88 minutes to live, which of course is actually how long he has to catch the baddie.

Avnet directs in that slickly anonymous Hollywood style that offers no insight into the story or characters, but keeps things moving at a brisk pace. Especially when zooming past the vast array of plot-holes. Energetic scenes abound as the characters race here and there, generating suspense from thin air and filling the screen with moments of sublime absurdity ("Did you ever give anyone clearance to my secure area?" barks Pacino).

It doesn't help that Pacino looks rather haggard and distracted, with frenzied hair that seems to have a mystery plot all its own. The women gamely give hilariously wild-eyed performances as one-note characters. And as the story gets increasingly preposterous, a few ill-defined men show up around the film's edges: a grizzled cop (Forsythe), a shifty student (McKenzie), an unshaven mystery hunk on a motorbike (Moyer). Everyone in this story is a suspect, not that we care anyway.

At least it boils over into one of the most contrived and deeply silly final acts in recent memory, finally revealing the real villainy behind the over-complicated plot and allowing the cast to chomp mercilessly on the scenery. Even here, Avnet orchestrates the action efficiently, while Pacino brilliantly roars around the set growling and sputtering like his life depends on it. We keep waiting for everyone to just burst into laughter at any moment. And that's where the real tension emerges.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 4.Sep.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall