Directed by Jon Avnet. Starring Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Amy Brenneman, Leelee Sobieski, Benjamin McKenzie, Deborah Kara Unger, William Forsythe, Neal McDonough. (2008, R, 106 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 25, 2008
Attica! Attica! Everyone involved in the creation of this muddled, joyless, and deadly dull serial killer-meets-forensic psychiatrist snoozefest should be forced to spend – at the very least – 88 minutes behind Attica's bars. Personally, I'd petition for the full 106-minute running time of the offense in question. Either way, throw the book at ’em, Danno. Pacino's fall from grace to Iconic American Actor Most Likely to Appear in a Mediocre Movie reaches its nadir here, following several other ill-conceived roles in Two for the Money, Gigli, and S1m0ne – all to varying degrees crimes or misdemeanors (although we'll allow, as exculpating evidence of good faith, that Pacino's upcoming turn in Harold Becker's remake of the late Jules Dassin's masterful Rififi could very well restore the star's former luster). And, of course, Pacino's weathered features and the gravelly timbre of his snake-oil smooth voice remain seductive as ever. As for 88 Minutes, however, it imparts little more than a dull patina of prechewed, procedural formulas to the Pacino CV. Here he's Jack Gramm, a Seattle forensics professor whose testimony has sent a buggy mug by the name of Forster (McDonough, creepy enough) to the death house. As Forster's execution time approaches, Gramm gets a mysterioso cell call which imparts the news that he, too, has only 88 minutes to live. Add to that the fact that a series of copycat crimes utilizing Forster's m.o. have just come to light, and a surfeit of suspects – among them Witt as one of Gramm's students, and a raggedy-hot university dean (Unger) – and the film quickly devolves into a by-the-book skein of rhetorical questions that call into question both his character's testimony and the actor's ability to pick a decent script. For myself, Pacino's last iconic performance was as the motormouthed, leering Father of Lies in The Devil's Advocate. True enough, he devoured both scenery and co-stars whole. (You've got to wonder what Keanu Reeves tasted like. I'm betting on "wet cardboard.") But he made for a frighteningly famished foil. In 88 Minutes, he's about as hungry as a Seattle raindrop, and that's just plain hell.