By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Is it possible to enjoy an absurd movie? In this case, yes.
Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age – or maybe I’m just so desperate for movies that even remotely entertain me that I’m getting “easy.” Whichever it is, I actually enjoyed 88 Minutes.
Why the qualifier? Because surprisingly (to me) this movie is getting killed by movie other movie critics.
The film opens eerily and quietly enough, with us looking in on a pair of Asian twin sisters getting ready to turn in for the night. It’s all innocuous, so much so that of course you know something horrible is coming, and indeed it does. Their home is invaded by a twisted killer who binds up his victims, hanging them upside down from the ceiling to torture them before finally killing them.
After that scene we cut to a courtroom where we see an excruciatingly annoying yet very attractive female lawyer trying to cross examine Al Pacino on the stand. He plays a well known forensic psychiatrist and college professor named Jack Gramm. His testimony was responsible for the conviction of accused serial killer Jon Forster. As it turns out his testimony is key to convicting the (at this point) wide-eyed Jon Forster (played with creepy glee by Neal McDonough).
Cut to 9 years later, where we see Jack waking up next to a very naked young lady who looks young enough to be his granddaughter. I did an involuntary eye roll at yet another super-old guy hooked up with a young twenty-something. It is the day of Forster’s execution and for some reason his case has touched a nerve with the media and he’s getting all kinds of attention and camera time – on the very day he’s supposed to die.
Forster is garnering all this attention because he accuses Jack of manipulation, saying that he induced one witness (and the twin sister of one of his victims) to testify against him. On the “definitely not a coincidence” front, someone has turned up doing copycat killings identical to those committed by Forster. One of the theories floated is that Jack was wrong and that the real killer is still out there.
On top of this, Jack receives a phone call using a masked electronic voice telling him that he has only 88 minutes left to live. The reality of the threat becomes apparent soon enough and due to the way clues are being left nearby Jack suspects everyone around him, especially his students.
So the rest of the movie consists of a cat and mouse game with Jack running around (sometime literally, which looks odd for someone as old as Pacino) in an elaborate and confusing maze of locations and situations as his precious life clock ticks down.
Even though despite all the red herrings I was pretty sure who was involved in the caper an hour before the film was over, for some reason the twists and turns kept me interested as I second guessed myself and just enjoyed watching Pacino on screen. The man can still carry a scene – heck, a whole movie. You could see the cogs grinding in his mind while trying to figure out who exactly was outside the prison working for Forster. The movie had so many odd twists and turns that I honestly didn’t know where the heck it was going or would end up.
On the other hand much of the film did seem pretty absurd, topped by the fact that despite Jack’s keen mind, he never did figure out who it was. That was a huge disappointment for me as part of the fun of this movie was seeing an experienced forensic expert slash psychiatrist go head to head with a serial killer psychopath’s mind. To NOT have him figure it out seemed odd. Also the overabundance of red herrings, with one over the top one in particular was quite annoying.
So why the relatively high rating? Despite these things overall I enjoyed the ride – it was nice having a movie that actually tugged at my mental processes instead of letting me sit there like a zombie.
If you’re looking for a decent “date movie” I’d recommend this one. Just don’t think about it TOO hard while you’re watching it.