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15 Minutes

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: 15 Minutes

Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Burns
Director: John Herzfeld
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: March 2001
Genres: Action, Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Kelsey Grammer, Avery Brooks, Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov, Melina Kanakaredes, Vera Farmiga, John DiResta, James Handy, Charlize Theron

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Darn those big corporations. They pollute our water ("Erin Brockovich"), they defile our lungs ("The Insider") and now-- according to writer-director John Herzfeld--they encourage murder ("15 Minutes"). An over-the-top police drama that trashes the oh-so-liberal American justice system which frees up anyone with a decent lawyer (never mind that almost one percent of the American population is behind bars) and roasts the TV networks for provoking violence while the system broils brave police officers, "15 Minutes" delivers some tense, often powerful kicks to the audience while perhaps adding to the coffers of another corporation--the makers of Excedrin. This migraine-inducing and graphically violent--but always entertaining-- new film highlights two actors (Edward Burns and Kelsey Grammer) playing effectively against type while giving Robert De Niro the chance to show that under the skin of a hard- hitting celebrity detective pounds a fluttering heart, apprehensive about a planned marriage proposal to his girl friend.

The title comes from Andy Warhol's most famous quote, that "in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." Sure. If you can't build a career that will give you a lifetime of eminence like Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, maybe you can appear on TV for a segment, perhaps a talk show like Oprah's or Rosanne's that will put you in the limelight only to toss you out like yesterday's sourdough bread when the next day's guests come aboard. The villains who seek their names in lights are two Eastern Europeans who come around to visit New York, Emil Slovak (Karel Roden) and Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov). While their goal is to collect a large sum of money from an associate who, of course, does not have it and gets what he deserves, Oleg has a greater vision. A huge fan of American movies such as Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," he steals a vidcam from an electronics store and from then on considers himself the next Steven Spielberg, keeping his camera in motion without a crew, cinematographer or even a gaffer. Conceiving a plan to sell one of his tapes to a major TV network, Oleg (who is just plain stupid) and Emil (a flat-out psychopathic killer), seek the help of network news anchor Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer) to get their 15 minutes of fame but run into dauntless opposition from celebrity detective Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) and his unlikely team-mate on the case, fire department arson detective Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns).

While "15 Minutes" has something going for it, this is no thinking person's cop drama. If you want that, try to see Bruno Dumont's "L'Humanite, about Pharaon De Winter, a quiet sensitive cop who discovers the naked body of an 11-year-old girl who had been raped and murdered--perhaps by De Winter himself. Instead "15 Minutes" pumps up the action throughout with a score that includes David Bowie, John Lennon and Carlos Alomar's "Fame" as well as the Russian folk song "Kalinka" performed by the Crazy Russian Folk 'n' Roll Band Limpopo. The music is for the most part unnecessary to convey the subtleties of a Detective Flemming's car racing to the scene of the envisioned murder of an eyewitness to a killing, the beautiful Daphne (Vera Farmiga;, a building bursting into flames and explosions, which offers fire fighter Jordy Warsaw a chance to play hero by ripping a water pipe from the wall; and the violent temper of news anchor Robert "If-it-bleeds-it-leads" Hawkins who will do just about anything to capture films of murder and mayhem to boost the ratings on his widely-watched New York tabloid program.

While De Niro at times seems to wink at the audience as he puffs on his big cigar, at one point even conjuring up his "Taxi Driver" image ("You talking to me?"), Edward Burns seems to be having quite the time playing opposite him, a respite from his making of the more arty and comic indies, "The Brother McMullen" (a modest film that compels attention by its authentic dialogue) and "She's the One" (about a guy who catches his fiance cheating on him some time back and marries on impulse to get back at her).

By contrast there's little that sounds authentic here, but for those who enjoy visceral excitement and take their movies straight without a tempering blend of subtlety, she's the one.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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