“88 Minutes” delivers everything that made horror and suspense action movies like “Saw” or “Speed” successful — in a laughably watered-down version.
It begins with a man elaborately binding a girl and trussing her up by one leg using ropes and pulleys. After muffling her cries with a rag soaked in halofane, he proceeds to surgically cut her open and rape her. Then, the movie flashes forward to his trial, where forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) testifies against Jon Forester (Neal McDonough) for a series of rapes and murders. Gramm’s testimonial bears decisive weight in a case with little incriminating evidence, and Forester is convicted.
Nine years later, on the day of Forester’s slated execution, a woman is found dead in her apartment, trussed up and killed in the exact manner, down to every detail of the same ropes and pulleys. Gramm subsequently receives a cryptic call from someone who tells him that he only has 88 minutes left to live.
In those over-extended 88 minutes, we see Gramm go to teach lecture, chase cars around a parking lot, drive down to the police station, watch his car explode, drive around some more, drive across town, go to his apartment, etc. If only real time ran that way! (Maybe time freezes when Gramm drives?)
Also, within 88 minutes, some characters have leisure time to pour out their life story. We see the plot and characters complicate, somewhat meaninglessly, as the movie utilizes tried and familiar plot twists and conventions. We see continuous flashbacks of Gramm’s little sister, which obviously has some sort of bearing on his decision to become a forensic psychiatrist and crusader against serial killers. We see flashbacks of the murders, the tortured girls screaming, meant to shock and build suspense. Gramm receives more cryptic phone calls, in which the culprit delivers some ridiculously melodramatic lines. Holes in the plot also abound — the movie makes use of DNA evidence to frame Gramm himself for the rapes, but completely ignores this such evidence to incriminate Forester or anyone else.
Nor does the movie make use of its time for much-needed character development. Gramm is relegated to either yelling or ignoring the other characters. When his teaching assistant pours out the tragedy of her last relationship, Gramm doesn’t respond and remains lost in thought, instead filtering through flashbacks of the murdered girls and his last night’s events. Well, maybe he’s justified, since he has less than an hour left to live anyway. However, between the nonsensical character development and unconvincing acting, I can’t bring myself to care about anybody in this movie. There are too many extraneous scenes and superfluous characters that exist only to throw the audience off the scent. The movie becomes laughable in its clunky and transparent attempts to build a suspenseful mystery, leading the audience on a wild goose chase following improbable suspects and delivering even more improbable sentimental moments during crisis.
Time ticks away as Gramm receives calls saying “82 minutes,” “75 minutes,” “10 minutes,” and — instead of being captivated in suspense — I find myself checking my watch and counting down the minutes until the movie is over.