Heather's Movie Rental Review: 88 Minutes Essay

Ever since Al Pacino arrived in Hollywood, the words “great actor” have been associated with his illustrious film career. Pacino has been known for such movies as The GodfatherCarlito’s WayScarfaceDog Day Afternoon and Scent of a Woman. The recent DVD release of 88 Minutes attempted to follow Pacino’s strengths from his past films with scattered results.

What would you do if you had 88 minutes left to live? Dr. Jack Gramm (Pacino) received an anonymous phone call that warned him just that. Gramm, a well renowned criminal profiler/teacher, didn’t take the threat seriously until he received clues that his life had an expiration date. With doubt in his mind, he had no idea who to trust because everyone was a suspect including his students and his long time friends. Gramm ended up turning to a long time teacher’s assistant named Kim (Alicia Witt) and his personal assistant Shelly (Amy Brenneman) for help. Did he make the right choice or a fatal error in judgment?

A possible connection to this threat was a previous serial killer case he did in the past and a copycat in his midst with the same killer signature as the original case. Questions came to light about his character and his motive for getting the original serial killer sent to death row. Was the copycat really a copycat? Can someone Gramm trusted be really out to get him? The clock ticked on until the killer was revealed with someone that ended up dead. Was it Gramm, or his tormentor?

Pacino’s performance was the only saving grace for Minutes‘ chaotic storytelling and throwaway plot points. He believably conveyed Gramm’s initial arrogance and his fear of death as he tried to solve a mystery too close to home. His appearance of a controlling professional unraveled every time his voice went up an octave too high, which was nothing new since Pacino repeatedly resorted to screaming his lines in his more recent films such as Two for the Money. A little unnerving was the fact that Pacino seemed to carry a look of bewilderment even when the scene did not call for it. He might’ve been wondering why he didn’t hold out for a bigger payday when he chose to do such a regrettable film. What Pacino needed to work on instead was another film role like his cop character in Sea of Love which had enough logical suspense to keep the audience interested regardless. Instead the audience was forced to see him grasp for straws in a senseless stale popcorn flick.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film’s cast didn’t fare as well as Pacino’s performance did. Most of the supporting cast had disposable roles that the audience had quickly forgotten about once they left the screen. The only marginally memorable characters were Witt’s and Brenneman’s. Those two characters were the ones that seemed to remotely humanize Pacino’s character. Sadly, Brenneman’s character did very little in the movie except deliver coffee and made some phone calls. She was also delivered the blow of a left field subplot that came out of nowhere and disappeared into the movie’s abyss just as quickly. Witt’s character had a little more of back story, but little time to explain between various attempts on her life.

Many crime thrillers had the conclusion figured out from the first frame, but that wasn’t the case for this Pacino stinker. The film’s biggest offense was a half baked story that seemed to throw everything but the sink into the mix with nothing sticking. Audiences were left scratching their heads whenever the tone shifted to another potential villain without explaining why the previous one was absolved. One character was considered to be a shadowy figure and was soon considered trustworthy. A prime example was a male character from Witt’s past that never jumped out of the shadows long enough for the audience to trust.

Unlike most film mysteries, Minutes had a plethora of clues with no way for Gramm’s mystery to be easily solved. The logic was never where it intended to be, which was irksome until the very end of the film. When the conclusion was revealed, the only resounding response was “yeah right.” No way this villain would have lasted five minutes let alone the length of this film to remain on the streets. Cuff ‘em please immediately.

Ultimately, the cast made a valiant effort to salvage a disappointing film with little to show for it, except egg on their collective faces. Hopefully, these Minutes don’t mean that Andy Warhol’s well known timer of fifteen minutes ran out on everyone. Well, at least until the next decent film script arrived on their doorsteps. Better luck next time.

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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