In 88 MINUTES, Dr. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino), a Seattle-based college professor and forensic psychiatrist, is informed by an enigmatic caller that he has exactly that amount of time to live. The threat is linked to Gramm's role in putting a convicted serial killer (Neal McDonough) behind bars nearly a decade earlier, and sends the scholar/consultant on a desperate run to avert his imminent demise. Entering into Gramm's dangerous orbit are his dutiful assistant (Amy Brenneman), an FBI agent (William Forsythe), and his admiring young students (most notably Alicia Witt), all of whom add layers to the tense mystery.
Shelved for years, 88 MINUTES was finally released in U.S. theaters during 2008, marking director Jon Avnet's first feature-film project since 1997's RED CORNER. (Avnet was brought in as a replacement for original helmer James Foley.) Pacino clearly knows his way around a thriller (see HEAT and INSOMNIA), and approaches his beleaguered character with typical gusto, while his costars, particularly Forsythe and Witt, also offer up energetic turns. Though the high-concept plot is secondary to Pacino's agitated performance, even those who drift from the storyline will appreciate the Hollywood veteran's over-the-top acting, especially if they are diehard fans of the iconic actor.