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Fifteen Minutes

is two hours too long

Time is a precious commodity and 15 Minutes wastes too much of it. Writer and director John Herzfeld has managed to bring the level of bad taste and unnecessary, pointless violence up a notch or two. Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) is a celebrated and much loved New York City cop with a slight drinking problem and a big ego. As Eddie and his partner Leon Jackson (Avery Brooks) strut for the cameras of a trashy reality TV show, "Top Story", a seedy mix between "Cops" "Dateline" and "America’s Most Wanted", two Eastern European tourists sneak pass customs and arrive in the Big Apple with dreams of making a movie and a million bucks.
The oddly intense and completely insane Czech Emil Slovak (Karel Roden) and his brainless incredible Hulk look-a-like Russian buddy Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov), hatch an obscene plan that'll allow them to cash in on the faulty American judicial system using the Double Jeopardy clause (you can't be tried for the same crime twice), an insanity plea and society's fascination with idiots while making a movie. While puffing away on cigarettes and watching talk shows hosted by the likes of Rosanne and Jerry Springer, the two revel in a culture where crap is king. "I love America," the Czech snickers. "No one is responsible for what they do." Perhaps he was inspired by O.J. Simpson.

The two psychos go around town on a killing spree, burning their way through Manhattan and recording the brutal acts with a digital video camera. Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns who looks like a young Richard Gere) is a wide-eyed arson investigator who follows their trail along with Eddie and ends up the hero himself. At one point, his boss shouts, “Don’t you guys get it? It’s all about image!" This movie seems to wholeheartedly buy into that concept; the fires are vivid and the violence is appalling (this picture is definitely not for the faint of heart). Herzfeld depicts the images that the killers capture through their camcorder by blending in the handheld camerawork, tweaking the color and framing such shots unconventionally to create a sense of tension and chaos. But essentially, it's all hollow and superficial.
15 Minutes proves that TV personalities really don’t have any souls and that lawyers really are going to hell. The Czech and the Russian are completely despicable characters that should have been killed off half way through the movie. However, there is a bit of homoeroticism thrown in for good measure, particularly a scene in which Jordy sensuously lights a cigar for Eddie.

This movie does the same exact thing that it argues against; it sensationalizes violence and tries to cash in on brutality. Through all the crap, you can perhaps give Herzfeld the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was trying to prove some high-minded concept. But he fails, terribly, and proves nothing at all except that Hollywood is, by definition, incapable of dealing with issues concerning the media, society and violence. Especially when there's so much money to be made.


Fifteen Minutes
Rated R
1 hour 52 minutes

Robert Deniro
Edward Burns
Vera Farmiga
Kelsey Grammer
Melina Kanakaredes