The preposterous “88 Minutes” is a serial killer movie starring Al Pacino’s festival of hair. Second-billed Al Pacino plays forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jack Gramm, chasing a copycat psycho all around Seattle, as blood-drenched female victim after female victim is discovered hanging upside down from some sort of pulley contraption, like a Cirque du Soleil act gone awry.
Years ago, according to Gary Scott Thompson’s script, Gramm’s court testimony helped put the copycat’s inspiration behind bars. Nine years later, someone has revived the old routine. Early in an increasingly addle-brained plot, half of which is relayed via cellphone conversations, it’s suggested the copycatter has some connection to Gramm’s university course. Is it his teaching assistant, the one with a crush on Gramm, played by Alicia Witt? Is it the dean with the bedroom eyes, played by Deborah Kara Unger? Is it Gramm’s assistant Shelly (Amy Brenneman, constantly constantly constantly on the phone), who has an ill-advised one-off with one of Gramm’s students?
Is it time we shelved the serial killer trope for a while? Speaking of the shelf: “88 Minutes” reportedly has been available in many foreign nations on DVD for well over a year now. Director Jon Avnet hacks his way through a script that barely hangs together. The movie throws so much awkward back story at you, so late in the game, it’s as if it’s out to kill you with exposition.
About 17 minutes into the film, Gramm gets his first warning from the copycat killer that he has 88 minutes to live. For most of those 88 minutes, Pacino refuses to act the least bit rattled. He appears vaguely put out at best, unlike his hair, which really puts out. It’s so poofy you wonder if the actor has tiny little blow dryers in there, whirrrrrring away, distracting him from the sound of his own dialogue.
“88 Minutes.” MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity and language. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. In wide release.