88 Minutes

Director:

J. Avnet

Producer:

A. Lerner and R. Emmett

Year:

2008

Distributor:

TriStar Pictures

Country:

USA

Running time:

111 min

Genre:

Thriller

Format:

Colour

Availability:

DVD

Keywords:

psychiatrists, forensic psychiatry, professor, dean, dean of students, teaching assistant, TA, Action hero, student-professor relationship, figural stereotype
Summary
Professor Jack Gramm is a forensic psychologist who balances his teaching career with hanging out in bars with coeds and woman deans, and serving as an expert consultant — specializing in serial killers — to the police and the FBI (apparently the FBI no longer have forensic investigation departments). One morning, Jack, running late for class (lingering breakfasts after a night of romance can do that), is walking briskly across campus when he receives a phone call. A mysterious caller, using voice distortion software, tells Jack that he has only 88 minutes left to live. Jack phones his comely assistant — who can do things like trace a blocked cellphone number — and then strides into a lecture hall where the TA (who is also comely) has been instructing the class (who are almost entirely attractive young women). Jack interrupts her as he jumps to the podium, trenchcoat flapping and continues the lecture, using the Jeopardy pedagogical style. However, his cell phone rings again (cellphone chatter is allowed during classes), and the same caller repeats the deadly threat, with the appropriate number of minutes deducted. This puts Jack a bit off his game. Why is he being threatened and by who? Does it have to do with one of the dozens of serial killers Jack has helped put behind bars? Is it one of his students? For some reason Jack immediately assumes the latter, and he begins to question some, and stare at them all, in a manner befitting a trenchcoat-clad park pervert as opposed to professorial. Suddenly, however the "Dean of Students" bursts into the lecture hall, announcing that there has been a bomb threat and everyone must evacuate. Soon after, a series of grisly murders begin (one of the victims is a former student of Jack's), using the same modus operandi as the "Seattle Slayer," one of the psychos put away nine years earlier as a result of Jack's expert testimony. Could this be connected with the phone class? At this point there are less than 88 minutes left for Jack (along with his assistant and TA) to solve the mystery so that Jack can get back to teaching.

Teaching Notes:
Portrayal of Professors

One of Hollywood's most common figural stereotypes is the aging A-list male professor who is able to enduce young co-eds to swoon just thrity seconds into a lecture. While this is occasionally amusing — such as in the Indiana Jones franchise — Al Pacino's trenchcoat-clad Jack Gramm, with his rumpled and somewhat leering visage, creates the opposite — and unintentionally bathetic — figural stereotype, that of a lecherous lecturer who follows the A-list casting directive which holds that because college students never seem to age, he shouldn't have to, either. Such behaviour is hardly confined to academia — as exemplified by Pacino's recent pop-icon portrayal in Danny Collins (Dan Fogelman, 2015).

As is almost always the case in Hollywood's portrayal of academics, the real action always takes place off-campus. Toward the end of the film, when Prof. Jack Gramm springs into action waving a handgun, one almost expects, "Say hello to my little friend!" University administrators and teaching faculty take note: In the event that you are on your way to class and get a phone call similar to Professor Gramm's, the clip below is instructive of what not to do, including:
  • If there is a bomb threat, sending the "Dean of Students" to each individual classroom to announce it is not particularly efficient;
  • When you receive a death threat, don't call your assistant (no matter how pretty), call the police;
  • Cellphones off in class;
  • Don't model your teaching style after Alex Trebek;
  • Don't use a call and response lecturing style, unless it's a performance/demonstration for an ethnomusicology class, or a history class on old-time Gospel preachers;
  • If a male student suggests there may be a contrasting argument, don't respond with, "If you want to argue, the law school is across campus." The only reason Prof. Jack got a laugh from his fawning coeds was because it was in the script.
Portrayal of Senior administrators
Other than acting as a human fire alarm, the role of the "Dean of Students" is included simply to provide sympathetic background on Jack Gramm:

Dean Johnson: You know every outbreak of school violence is preceded by a threat. You need to report this to Campus Security immediately.
Prof. Gramm: I get a threat 3, 4 times a year.
Dean Johnson: Your arrogance makes me want to slap you.
Prof. Gramm: I wish you had disclosed your feelings...before we became friends.
Dean Johnson: Stop hiding behind assessments of others and assess yourself. Get over your past and on with your life. What you're living' isn't one. Isn't that what you tell patients?
Prof. Gramm: Gum?
Dean Johnson: I'll tell campus security you're coming.
Prof. Gramm: Where'd you go last night,when you left the bar?
Dean Johnson: Home.
Prof. Gram: Were you alone?
Dean Johnson: Screw you.