“88 Minutes” can’t even live up to its title. With 19 — count ’em, 19 — producers, including director Jon Avnet, ensuring that every aspect of the film, from the script to the star’s haircut, is ludicrous in the extreme, the picture easily snatches from “Revolution” the prize as Al Pacino’s career worst. Available on DVD in some territories as early as February 2007 and rolled out theatrically in France and elsewhere beginning in May of last year, this gape-inducing fiasco is getting a token domestic release that at least saves its star the indignity of a dump straight to homevid.
But from the incompetently staged first scene, in which nubile Asian twins are strung up and tortured by a weirdo to the accompaniment of generic musical pummeling, this looks like something off the bargain horror rack. Nine years later, “Seattle Slayer” Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) is skedded to be executed for the crime, but on that very day, a virtually identical murder is committed that could be the work of a copycat, but might also call Forster’s guilt into question.
Enter Dr. Jack Gramm (Pacino), a star forensic psychiatrist whose testimony landed Forster on death row. The operative word here is “star”; this guy has a goofy thatched haircut that by definition cost hundreds of dollars, a seeming perma-tan, a top-of-the-line Porsche and a high-tech designer condo that may rep the combined fantasies of the 19 producers.
Jack also teaches at a local university where all his female students are babes, at least some of whom have crushes on him even though he’s past retirement age. In the interest of fair play, his male students are good-looking too, but in that cold, potential-serial-killer sort of way. Oh yeah, the dean of the law school (Deborah Kara Unger) is a babe, too.
Not bad, either, is Jack’s loyal assistant Shelly (Amy Brenneman), who’s probably in love with her boss but is a lesbian, a detail that comes dubiously into play later on. More important, however, is Shelly’s function as a plot device; after Jack is informed by a mysterious caller that he will die in 88 minutes because of his role in determining Forster’s fate, it’s Shelly who’s on the cell phone relaying information and making contacts while Jack goes about his daily business.
If Avnet and screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson (the first two “The Fast and the Furious” features, “Hollow Man,” “K-9”) had gone into lockdown mode at this point and adhered to a rigorous real-time format, perhaps they could have recouped some ground. But they couldn’t care less, as Jack moves hither and yon around town in ways that would take hours, makes dozens of calls (a good half the film’s dialogue is cell-phone conversation) and deals with an FBI man (William Forsythe) who suspects Jack committed the most recent murder. One particularly babelicious student, Kim (Alicia Witt), tags along on his quest but, scarcely a half-hour before Jack is supposed to die, takes time out to ask why he never got married and if he still wants kids.
Finale looks more like a Cirque de Soleil routine than a realistic to-the-death faceoff, but then, if viewers aren’t laughing by this point, it means they’ve already walked out.
Pacino rants and runs around, but without quite the sense of urgency one might imagine from someone in his extreme predicament. To play the babes, the 19 producers have seen fit to hire actresses (including Witt but especially Leelee Sobieski) with the uniform capacity to tower over the leading man, something for which he was surely grateful.