I feel fairly confident in stating that veteran actor Al Pacino (“The Godfather” trilogy, “Any Given Sunday”, “Serpico”) is easily one of the greatest actors ever to appear on the silver screen. With that being said, is it just me or is anyone else scratching their head over one of Al’s recent releases, the supposed thriller “88 Minutes”, which has become the worst reviewed movie of Pacino’s illustrious career. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, once you do I’m sure you’ll join me and many others in wondering, “Why does a man as successful as Al Pacino debase himself by starring in this piece of cinematic garbage?”

“88 Minutes” follows one extremely stressful day in the life of forensic psychologist Jack Gramm (Al Pacino) as he receives a threatening phone call claiming that he only has 88 minutes to live (hence the name). To make things worse, a killer is leaving a trail of bodies that just so happen to be friends/colleagues or students of Gramm’s. Now, suspicions are on the rise that Jack may have snapped; all the while time is ticking away for Jack to discover who is committing these murders, which of his colleagues and/or students may be killed next, and most important of all, how he can survive the following 88 minutes of his day.

So, after viewing this less than thrilling thriller, which for some reason lasted nearly 20 minutes past the 88 minutes of story the movie actually has in store, I find myself pondering the question I posed a few moments ago, regarding Al’s questionable decision to star in such an obviously bad film that is nothing more than a pale imitation of a sub-par episode of any “CSI” or “Law and Order” series. Surely, the script read as poorly on paper as it sounded in the context of the movie. Well Al, can you answer my question or are you just as dumbfounded as the rest of us? That’s what I thought, you’re as dumbfounded by your decision to star in this garbage as we are (I felt like giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his numerous years of cinematic greatness that he has given us).

The story for “88 Minutes” holds promise early on, but by approximately 20 to 30 minutes into the film one quickly realizes that things are beginning to go awry and soon after that the material completely spirals out of control amidst a mess of more red herrings than an entire season of Scooby-Doo, a cornucopia of continuity errors, and impossible coincidences that are too obvious to ignore. Writer Gary Scott Thompson (TV’s “Las Vegas”) is not exactly a stranger to compelling drama, but for some reason he wasn’t able to squeeze any out of his script for this movie. I think the concept for the movie sounded good on paper, but when trying to flesh out the script Thompson most likely realized that the concept wouldn’t be able to hold up without relying on absurd coincidences. I believe Thompson, in an attempt to somewhat disguise the over-reliance on coincidences that are completely improbable, chose to introduce as many red herrings as he possibly could, to the point that as a viewer you eventually lose track of which ones you’ve eliminated as possible suspects and you just take a shot in the dark regarding who the guilty party may be. Whatever the case may actually be, one thing is for certain, the movie’s story is far too contrived and jumbled for any person to actually enjoy sitting through it from start to finish.

The continuity errors sprinkled all throughout “88 Minutes” could be attributed some to the writing, but in the end the director, Jon Avnet (“Righteous Kill”), does have control over what ones will be visible in the final product. This for me became a major distraction over the course of the movie; for instance, in one scene a car is shown vandalized, yet five to ten minutes later that very same vehicle is shown in completely pristine condition and the vandalism disappearing is never touched upon as being fixed and due to the 88 minute plot device, there was never any time for the car to be repaired, hence one major error that should have been caught on the set or in the script and wasn’t. One other example would be Al Pacino’s crazy hairstyle in this movie. I don’t normally pay too close of attention to an actor or actresses hair in a movie, but his was so odd and varying from moment to moment that it was hard to miss, and the hair seemed like it was almost alive and taking on a life all its own at times. Granted the former is a much bigger problem than the latter in terms of complaints about the movie; yet both serve as prime examples for a couple of instances where continuity was obviously ignored, and the problem permeated into almost every scene of the film.

Speaking of Al Pacino I normally enjoy his performances even in movies that aren’t always the greatest, he at least provides some semblance of entertainment. In this movie, Al seems hardly invested in the role, as if he’s just going through the motions to collect a paycheck that I hardly believe he was in such desperate need of to sign on to such a ridiculous project. Generally, in every Pacino movie there is a moment or two where Al kind of goes over-the-top, not to the point of bad acting, it’s just something you come to expect from him through his intense portrayal of his various roles, and in a way you kind of look forward to it; yet in this movie he maybe does it once, and not to the extent that any real intensity is conveyed. That lack of intensity gave me a clear indication of how little Al actually cared for the material he was being given to work with here.

Supporting Al’s uninspired performance were some fairly recognizable faces ranging from the always reliable character actor William Forsythe (“Gotti”), to former TV stars Amy Brenneman (“Judging Amy”) and Neil McDonough (“Boomtown”), to some of Hollywood’s obscure young talents Leelee Sobieski (“Joy Ride”) and Alicia Witt (“Urban Legend”). Most of the supporting cast was decent in their various roles, although Leelee Sobieski seemed a little forced in her performance, not feeling all that natural in her role as a student to Jack Gramm. Perhaps this was due to the fact that maybe she was aware of how ridiculous this movie actually was, I do not know, but whatever the reason, she just didn’t seem comfortable in her role from the moment her character was introduced.

What it all boils down to is this, “88 Minutes” is one of the worst movies, if not the worst movie of 2008, and by far is the worst movie in Al Pacino’s highly successful career. A poor story full of contrived plot points, inconsistencies, and a running time that doesn’t end soon enough, “88 Minutes” will have you bored and looking for the stop button long before the credits will begin to roll.

“88 Minutes” is rated R for violence and language.