Saturday, 5 November 2016

88 Minutes (4 Stars)

This is the 22nd film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 2007. That's when it was released in Europe, but it didn't appear in American cinemas until a year later. Despite being savaged by critics it was a moderate box office success, and DVD sales have been enough to turn in a sizeable profit. "88 Minutes" has a 5% rating on the rotten Rotten Tomatoes site. Yes, that's FIVE percent! Most of the critics talk badly about Al Pacino's performance, but I honestly can't see what he does wrong.

The film begins in 1997. Al Pacino plays Dr. Jack Gramm, a forensic psychiatrist giving evidence at a murder trial in Seattle. The victim was hung upside down by one leg and her blood drained by cuts to her arms. The evidence for the trial is sparse. There is no DNA evidence linking the defendant, Jon Forster, with the crime, and only one witness who admits that she couldn't see clearly. It all rests on the doctor's testimony. Dr. Gramm is a university lecturer who's an expert on serial killers, and after interviewing the defendant he's convinced that he's a potential serial killer who was fortunately caught after his first crime. Despite being found guilty of murder Jon Forster remains defiant and taunts Dr. Gramm, saying to him the cryptic words "Tick tock, Doc".

Nine years later, after a series of appeals, the day of Jon Forster's execution has arrived. The problem is that over the previous three months there have been another three killings in the same style: a woman hung upside down by one leg and her blood drained. Jon Forster has been giving interviews saying this is proof that the wrong man was arrested. The police suspect that it's a copycat killer. Dr. Gramm suspects an accomplice who was never arrested. Then Dr. Gramm receives a phone call, telling him, "You have 88 minutes left to live. Tick tock, Doc". This sounds like a hoax, but then Dr. Gramm finds out that one of his university students was killed the previous night, and a prostitute that Dr. Gramm slept with was killed in the morning, both in the same ritualistic manner, hung upside down and drained. Dr. Gramm feels that someone is stalking him, watching him wherever he goes, and it's a race against the clock as he tries to find out who is threatening him before the time runs out.

Leelee Sobieski plays Lauren Douglas, one of the two female students assisting Dr. Gramm. He's also helped by his assistant Shelly and the female university dean. Another thing the critics complain about is that Dr. Gramm is surrounded by women as he tries to solve the mystery before it's too late. What's wrong with that? If I only had 88 minutes to live I'd want beautiful women at my side. Especially women who look like Leelee Sobieski.

This is a fast paced psychological thriller that's worth watching, whatever the critics say. Critics are less involved with films than the public. The critics sit in their cosy armchairs and make their votes on cheap paper, but the public votes with its hard-earned cash. This time the public is right and the critics are wrong.

I strongly recommend that my readers watch the film's alternate ending. It's an extra six minutes included as a DVD extra that occurs after the official theatrical version of the film ends. Dr. Gramm holds a short speech which puts him in a different light, reminding me of Al Pacino's character in "Insomnia". This scene shouldn't have been cut. In the speech he says that justice is more important than truth. If a man is guilty and there isn't enough evidence to convict him he says that it's okay to lie or fake evidence.

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