15 Minutes Movie Review
OK, the title is actually an apt reference to Andy Warhol's "fifteen minutes of fame," but that doesn't mean it isn't too long. Slow, plodding, and so far-fetched it stretches the boundaries of "suspension of disbelief," 15 Minutes does very little with a good cast, hoping instead you'll bite into its shock value and simply love the taste.
What shock value is that? Robert De Niro stars as Eddie Flemming, a New York celebrity cop (um, okay...), and Edward Burns is presented as the local arson investigator. Kelsey Grammer hams it up as a New York tabloid TV journalist who tags along with Flemming on routine busts, but things start to get a little hot when two Eastern European visitors (Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov) go on a crime spree in town. When these two ex-cons find that their old friend has spent their share of the loot from an old bank robbery, they kill him off, burn down his apartment, and sit around, watching a lot of daytime TV. Here they get a bright idea: Videotape their various murders and what-have-you, sell the tape to a TV show for big bucks, plead insanity, "get better" in the mental hospital, and come out rich and famous.
These five characters are going to collide in the worst way, as you can probably imagine, with our Eurotrash criminals -- who couldn't even get away with a bank robbery -- masterminding a convoluted moneymaking plot, always staying one step ahead of the law and surviving whatever fists and bullets hit them. And Oleg (Taktarov) manages to get the whole thing on film!
Oleg's handiwork with his DV camera is undoubtedly the most annoying part of the movie. The first time we see Oleg playing with his camera, we have no idea what we're getting ourselves into. Long stretches play out through his lens, and like any juvenile amateur, he constantly fiddles with the settings, shooting in night vision mode, black and white, even sepia tone. All his tomfoolery actually manages to make the murder and violence seem uninteresting and distant -- not to mention the headaches.
As for writer/director John Herzfeld (2 Days in the Valley), his message feels dated and uninspired, when it isn't just plain obvious. In the alterverse of 15 Minutes, everyone is a publicity hound; even criminal investigations and fire scenes are "all about image." For their big finish, the Euro-duo even hole up in a packed Planet Hollywood to watch themselves on TV. Self-referential, sure, but who would do such a thing?
The acting is fine, if uninspired. De Niro acts like his back hurts too much to be strapped to a chair, bouncing up and down while he tries to kill some guy. Much more of a nuisance is Herzfeld's script, wandering about to its obvious end. Is this the cautionary tale on fame and celebrity it seeks to be? Sure, if you need to be beaten senseless with a "fame is baaaad!" message. For those of us who prefer a little more subtlety in our movies, 15 Minutes gets tired faster than the acting career of a former Survivor contestant.
A final consideration: John Waters couldn't even do a decent job of the trashing of our celebrity culture (see the half-assed Cecil B. DeMented), and in my book, if John can't do it right, it simply shouldn't be done at all.
Burns and De Niro do the samba.