Recently, many remarks have been cracked about running times of movies and the title 88 Minutes. "Is it too much to hope for that 88 Minutes will actually be 88 minutes?" our own James Rocchi asked me not too long ago. 88 minutes is a great running time for a movie, especially for busy critics with lots of movies to see and too many deadlines. You're in an out well before the welcome has worn out. Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons is considered a masterpiece at 88 minutes, even cut down from its original 132. Bill Murray knew the power of 88 minutes when he turned in his final cut of the classic Quick Change (1990). The Woodsman (2004) would have been unbearable at anything longer than 88 minutes. And whatever else you have to say about them, Scary Movie, Sexy Beast, Spy Kids, The Big Bounce, Transporter 2, Wristcutters: A Love Story and Horton Hears a Who! never seemed too long.
But, alas, 88 Minutes runs 108 minutes, and it's too long. Al Pacino (with a poofy, rooster-head haircut) plays high-profile forensic psychologist Jack Gramm, whose testimony was almost solely responsible for the conviction of accused murderer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough). Today, Forster is going to the chair, while maintaining his innocence, and while identical murders are still being committed throughout Seattle. At 10:17 a.m., Gramm gets a call, saying he has 88 minutes left to live. That call comes about a half hour into the movie, and the 88 minutes passes by in an awkward, compressed 70 minutes, give or take, followed by the expected conclusion and credits. Couldn't a cleverer filmmaker have set the movie in real time, and then used flashbacks to do all that boring preliminary stuff? Wouldn't the film have been much better if it just started with a bang, with that phone call?