'88 Minutes' fails to satisfy

by Chris Honor&


"88 Minutes" is a movie that has a great look: stylish, urbane setting, good-looking people and Al Pacino as a famous forensic psychologist, Dr. Jack Graham. It also has an initial sinister feel to it, encouraging the audience to settle in for a nifty piece of entertainment.

After all, this film promises a great recipe in the trailer: the game clock is ticking and Graham must figure out why there's a bull's eye on his back. For the first 45 minutes or so, "88 Minutes" is close to compelling. In the early stages of act one, Graham gets a phone call. The caller tells him that he has 88 minutes to live. Of course, he's yelling into his cell phone, "Who is this? Who is this?" Now, even though he's a weather-worn, been-there-done-that shrink who specializes in the criminally insane, he begins to feel just a tad paranoid. Suddenly every face on campus, even his students, begin to look ominous. Ratcheting up the tension are the follow-up calls in the middle of one of his lectures, and the electronically disguised voice reminds him that time is passing and ends by saying "tick tock, Doc."

But then, as a series of homicides take place and new characters are introduced, the film begins to implode. It starts going in so many different directions, with scenes that are brazenly improbable, and all that initial good will toward the film begins to erode. Even in Hollywood, where fantasy is sold as reality, this screenplay doesn't meet the suspend-your-disbelief test. It's just a bit too far over the top.

Besides, truth be told, Pacino is way past that time when young women would find him irresistible. During his halcyon years when he was in "The Godfather," absolutely. Even in one of his best thrillers, "Sea of Love." Or in that sleeper hit, "Heat," co-starring with Robert DeNiro.

But as a jaundiced-looking single college professor with disposable income way beyond most campus salaries, with coeds eager to become groupies, not a chance. This is a man whose face is testimony to the saying that it's not the years it's the mileage. Pacino now has both. Plus pouffy hair in this movie that seems to almost co-star.

Had this screenplay gone through several more rewrites and perhaps a younger Pacino cast, it might have had legs. But in its present form, it fails to satisfy on any level.

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