88 Minutes (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I have to admit that I admire the career of Al Pacino. He could have been a flash in the pan with the two “Godfather” movies, but instead he used it as a launching pad to become one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. Surprisingly enough, he’s only won one Academy Award (for 1992’s “Scent of a Woman”) though he’s been nominated several other times. Pacino, though, is getting on in years and even the greatest actors will find those juicy roles harder and harder to come by. Just ask Gene Hackman. All Hollywood politics aside, Pacino is still making movies and though his “leading man” status might be down a few notches from what it used to be, I still find him entertaining. This brings us to his latest role in “88 Minutes”, a film that appears to be pretty predictable on the surface and ends up being, well, predictable.

Pacino plays Dr. Jack Gramm, a noted psychiatrist who’s made quite the name for himself in Seattle. His testimony has put away dozens of killers and one in particular (Neal McDonough) is none too happy with him. We start off in 1997, right as Gramm’s testimony is sending Jon Forster (McDonough) to death row. Nine years pass and we see that Forster is still awaiting his sentence when Gramm gets a strange phone call telling him that, you guessed it, he’s got 88 minutes to live. Gramm is convinced that Forster’s calling all the shots from prison and he’s got to find the pieces of the puzzle in time else he’ll perish. Is it one of his students (I neglected to mention that he’s also a teacher at the local University)? Is it his assistant (Amy Brenneman)? Or is it some copycat killer that is trying to pick up where Forster left off?

“88 Minutes” certainly wasn’t a bad movie, it’s a bit predictable and I’m certain we could have done without the lesbian sub plot, but I digress…It’s got a decent cast, but these “race against the clock” thrillers rarely work. It didn’t work for Johnny Depp in “Nick of Time” or Colin Farrell in “Phone Booth” and it really didn’t work for Al Pacino here. Pacino, like Kevin Costner, is at his best when he plays it low key. Granted that’s just my opinion but his pitchy voice does tend to get a bit old when listened to for more than a hour. In a role nearly wasted, we find the lovely Leelee Sobieski (and for those of you thinking or hoping that she goes topless, I’m sorry to say she doesn’t) as well as Deborah Kara Unger who we haven’t seen in a while. Pardon the pun, but “88 Minutes” might be best suited for a rental or, dare I say it, a rainy day.

Video: How does it look?

“88 Minutes” is shown in a great-looking 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer and as we might expect, the image is great with only a few minor exceptions. The detail is top notch, and having never seen the film before, I had no basis for comparison though I will say that I was pretty impressed. Most movies that are shot in or around Seattle will have one thing in common: grey skies and a lot of scnes with rain. This movie features both which gives the movie a very subdued look and feel to it. Pacino’s wardrobe consists mainly of a black jacket (and the film takes place in one morning, so there weren’t a lot of changes to his attire) and flesh tones seem on the level. I caught a bit of shimmering on a staircase near the end of the movie which struck me as kind of odd, I usually don’t see that in a Blu-ray film, but I rewatched it and it’s there. All things considered, it’s not a bad transfer but I was expecting to see a bit more with the movie being so new.

Audio: How does it sound?

The movie also benefits from a Dolby TrueHD track that, surprisingly, sounds pretty good. “88 Minutes” is an action movie and, as such, we expect a higher level of audio from it than say a romantic comedy. Dialogue is very strong as expected and I was surprised at how much depth the soundtrack seemed to have. “Bangs” and “thuds” really resonated in some of the key scenes and the surrounds only helped matters as they helped heighten the mood. While not quite reference material, I was surprised that the film sounded as good as it did. Uncompressed sound, it makes even the most subtle sounds, sound quite amazing.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“88 Minutes” doesn’t really sport a plethora of supplements, though the commentary with director Jon Avnet is a bit more interesting than I had imageined. Avnet discusses the ordeal of making a movie of this nature and, of course, working with the legendary Al Pacino. We also get an alternate ending as well as a couple of featurettes.

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