88 Minutes is a cheesy, star-driven thriller, and the wrong Al Pacino shows up to drive it: instead of the devilish ham from The Recruit or The Devil’s Advocate, we mostly get the weary old man from Insomnia and People I Know, severed from the ambitions and complexities of those films. He’s not even a cop on the edge; he’s a forensic psychiatrist and college professor who gets a phone call taunting that he has 88 minutes to live — possibly payback from a serial killer he helped convict. From there, it’s a white-knuckle rollercoaster of retirement-age thrills: a brisk walk through a parking garage, a trip to campus security and several cab rides! The goofily coiffed Pacino does show signs of spacey life early on when he offers cookies and milk to police interrogators. He drifts, though, and soon even his running looks bored.
Everyone around him seems similarly distracted, like guests schmoozing through a bad party. The film’s approach to creating credible suspects lies not in storytelling but rather in casting as many C-list actors as possible to serve as potential surprise killers. Will it be Alicia Witt, in the parking garage, with the handgun? Leelee Sobieski, on the quad, with the rope? The guy from The O.C., in the dean’s office, with the other handgun?
Director Jon Avnet has worked as a producer, and in TV; he jumps back into feature directing with nutty zooms and killer’s-POV shots, merrily rediscovering the early 90s and/or basic cable. Take it as a sad feature-length warning about the upcoming Pacino/DeNiro team-up Righteous Kill: that one’s an Avnet-helmed serial killer movie, too.