Chances are unless you’re big into the movie scene and read about every film coming out, 88 Minutes will have slipped under your radar. Despite a wide release in the States, the film graced screens for only four weeks before bowing out with a meager sixteen million in ticket sales. Despite being headlined by legend Al Pacino, the film underperformed in every way imaginable and was slammed by the critics. Based on this alone it’s easy to see why Sony waited almost a full six months after its theatrical release to bestow the home video release onto the public, likely hoping the delay washed away some of the things people may have heard about this film.
Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino), a forensic psychologist, has put away bad men in his day but none as violent as Jon Forster (Neil McDonough). With his death by lethal injection quickly coming up, Forster finds a way out of his sentence and begins to organize an attack on Dr. Jack Gramm—all from inside prison. Gramm’s life is put on the line when he receives a threatening phone call stating he has only eighty-eight minutes to live before he will be killed. Within minutes of receiving this call, Jack is on the defensive and begins to attempt to solve one of the most important murders of his life…his own.
Like how dramatic I got with the final sentence there? Yeah that was pretty much jacked from every tagline the film has had. It’s an interesting premise and I’ll be honest that I was completely wrapped up in the film for the first sixty minutes or so, but there is a serious stumbling block that was thrown into the mix shortly after the film started. While we got to know Pacino’s character quite well, it wasn’t until he received the call did we really meet any of the other principle cast. This means that while the film runs a hundred and four minutes in length, it isn’t until the sixteen minute mark do we actually meet the secondary cast—the first act of the film is spent entirely on Pacino’s character, which would be fine and dandy if the film didn’t rely so heavily on the second half of the cast. With only eighty-eight minutes left on the timer, it’s incredibly difficult to keep track of the cast and after about ten minutes I gave up trying to learn names.
The major flaw of the film is that it attempts to throw in too many possible suspects, which just clogs up the works. It could be the people in Jack’s office, the people in Jack’s class and even the dean of the school that Jack teaches at. It’s too big of a bowl of suspects to attempt to sort through for the meager time we were given and while it keeps us guessing, it also makes us lose interest as the film tosses us all over the place. At one point it even has you suspecting a shifty door man, for no real reason other than for us to wonder about what’s going on. Not bad if this was a movie that was more psychological in nature rather than just an “Oh My God, who’s going to kill me?” type affair.
It really is a shame this film faltered in so many places since I enjoyed watching the first part so much, but by the time Jack is diving out of the way of a rogue fire truck you begin to wonder just what this movie is trying to pull with its visuals and suspenseful situations. Not fazed by an apparently horrid fire truck driver almost running head on into a civilian? Well how about we blow up Jack’s Porsche now? Ok we’ll do that than just complicate matters even more by having random characters we haven’t seen since the beginning of the film showing up again as the suspects admitting to setting Jack up for this whole thing. It’s such a disastrous mass that could have been handled much better if the plot wasn’t so rushed and smashed together for seemingly no reason. If they were that concerned about keeping the film actually running eighty-eight minutes after he received the phone call, then they should have just removed some of the characters or sequences. At one point Pacino’s character arrives in his office and finds another character rifling through his stuff, accusing him of setting people up and killing people. It’s such a pointless scene that results in us having to watch Pacino run across the school campus a second time and…quite frankly I just wanted the film to be over by then.
The final reveal of the big baddie had no impact on me because I kind of figured it by the second act of the film and the various supposed red herrings thrown in along the way did nothing to distract me. It’s a film that’s made up of a great beginning and a great end but filled in with fluff in the center that you can’t digest. For a film that starts out intelligently enough with one of this generations greatest actors, it sure took a horrible turn for the middle section; I really haven’t been so disappointed with a film of this kind since The Sentinel which was pretty much equally as bad.
Pacino’s fun to watch and the supporting cast isn’t bad, but Alicia Witt’s character changes positions so many time during the film in order to get you to think she’s the one behind it all that in the end she just makes for a very confusing character as she never really can show you what she’s really feeling, lest we figure out that she’s not the killer/murderer/whatever. Not a huge deal for a film that’s already a giant mess, but I digress. It’s still worth checking out for the front and end though and is a decent way to waste some time if you can’t find anything else better to Rent.
Sony brings out 88 Minutes with a release that makes it look remarkably a lot like the Bourne film covers. I actually thought it was some un-announced release of the Matt Damon films that I was holding in my hands until I took a better look at the cover. In any case the rest of the packaging design is generic, with the interior housing adverts for the Blu-ray format and the menu system for the disc being a nicely done spinning clock design when you flip around for options. Not too shabby.
Video and audio for this film is a bit uneven; while there’s decent clarity to the image, it’s rather washed out and devoid of details in some instances. Perhaps the film’s just supposed to be ghastly in nature, but it doesn’t really look all that great, although the more I look at it the more I don’t think I can blame it on the AVC encoding. There’s nothing exceptionally brilliant about the cinematography in the film, although the set-up of the final stand-off in the film is rather enjoyable to look at. Audio is of the English TrueHD 5.1 variety, which is rather unimpressive except when there are fire truck’s running around and Porsche’s blowing up—thankfully they happen in quick succession, so you’ll get the most out of your subwoofer during that piece of the film. The rest is rather humdrum, with the dialogue nice and clear in the front channels and the occasional surround utilized.
The first extra (all of which are in standard definition) to poke at is the “alternate ending” ( 10:10). Oh boy what could this ending entail exactly? Nothing really, it’s not “alternate” in the least, it’s just a more fitting and satisfying closure to the film. I guess they figured the audience just wouldn’t care at that point and just decided to end it early and not show what happens to Forster’s character and that Jack went back to teaching, apparently completely unshaken by what would otherwise be life-changing events.
Next up is a commentary with director Jon Avnet, who joins the line of directors who make me feel bad for lambasting their film. He finds plenty to talk about here and points out some nice details and seems genuinely proud of the film…but maybe it’s just an infatuation with Pacino. It’s not a bad track, but unless you really enjoyed the film, then I wouldn’t bother with it—it’s basically just like sugar coating a rotten fruit. It may go down smoother the second time with the coating, but it still tastes bad. I’m not sure that analogy even needed to be included or made sense, but it was better than just typing “you can’t polish a turd” for the fifteenth time.
Finally we have “Director’s Point of View” (7:46) and “The Character Within” (7:48). The first features director Avnet talking about the film (commentary wasn’t enough?) while “Character” is an interview with Pacino only. They’re the same fair you find anywhere else and Pacino seems insistent on selling the films quality, though I’m not sure why he would delude himself into thinking there was any (man, I’m really venomous with this film, aren’t I?).
In the end, you guessed it, Rent It. Extras aren’t worth watching and the A/V transfer won’t blow you away, so I wouldn’t worry about picking this one up unless you’re a Pacino junkie (who, admittedly, isn’t half bad in the film).
88 Minutes arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on September 16th.