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'88 Minutes'

Okay, let's see how much I can write in 88 seconds, which is about what this alleged thriller is worth. Al Pacino plays a forensic psychiatrist and professor whose specialty is testifying about sadistic serial killers in court. He gets a phone call — in a voice mimicking that of a killer he helped convict — saying he has 88 minutes to live, so naturally, and without reporting the threat to anyone, he goes to class and gets another call: 82 minutes.

His class is disrupted by a bomb threat, and a projected message appears: 76 minutes. His car is vandalized, a student attacked; people start dying, 73 minutes. Still unflappable, he starts trying to solve the case himself, with the aid of a teaching assistant he doesn't trust: 67 minutes.

More people die, and enough has happened now that the timeline is getting implausible, so Pacino starts running a lot. Cars blow up, shots ring out. At some point you notice that director Jon Avnet isn't even bothering to get mustaches right from shot to shot. And just imagining the final phone call it's going to take to explain all this is giving you a headache. (The call turns out to be a real doozy, by the way).

Okay, I'm way past 88 seconds — but that's OK, because to add insult to injury, 88 Minutes is a numbing 108 minutes long.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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