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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 Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

In 15 MINUTES, Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov), a self-styled Frank Capra, has just landed in the USA and is ready to make a "great American movie with what America wants -- sex and violence." With the camcorder that he stole in broad daylight from a Times Square electronics store, he has the wherewithal to make his magnum opus if he can just find the right subject material. Given that he has arrived with fellow crook Emil Slovak (Karel Roden), a murderous miscreant, material will not prove a problem. (Roden is such a dead ringer for TRAINSPOTTING's Robert Carlyle that many moviegoers may misidentify him.)

The action starts when Emil commits a double murder as Oleg films it. Most of the rest of the movie has Oleg and Emil trying to keep the only witness, Daphne (Vera Farmiga), from revealing their identity. Chasing Oleg and Emil are two cops, Eddie (Robert De Niro) and Jordy (Edward Burns). Following the typical buddy cop formula, they start off at odds, but end up best buds.

The cigar-chomping, wise-cracking, hard-drinking and (literally) hard-driving Eddie is a homicide detective who is so famous that he has had his picture on the cover of People magazine. This high profile cop dates a rising network news star. When Eddie speaks, New York City listens. And when people find out he's on the double murder case, the large newspaper headlines reassuringly proclaim, "Eddie's On The Job."

In contrast to the telegenic Eddie, Jordy is an arson investigator used to working behind the scenes and never getting into any trouble. Well, there was this one time when he handcuffed a mugger to a tree in Central Park and forgot about him, but other than that minor infraction, Jordy is a cop who has always kept his nose clean. The catalyst that brings this unlikely cop pair together is the fire that Emil sets to hide the evidence after the murder.

"I love America," Emil decides after overdosing on television shows like "Roseanne." "No one is responsible for what they do." With this knowledge, Oleg's tape and help from a sleazy newsmagazine host, Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer), Emil devises what he believes to be a foolproof scheme to gain fame, fortune and freedom. Hawkins, whose motto is "If it bleeds, it leads," is always ready to sell his soul if the price is right.

Written and directed by John Herzfeld (2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY), the uneven movie has trouble deciding what kind of picture it wants to be. At first, it goes for light comedic drama, and the parts of the bad guys could easily have been played by Robin Williams in his full comedic schtick mode. This light heartedness gives way to an intense and sometimes quite violent crime drama. The intriguing movie works in fits and spurts but keeps you with it even with some troubling logical problems. The criminals kill some witnesses but not others, and the cops are slow to call for proper backup. Still, De Niro and Burns are both terrific, so it is a movie whose flaws can be easily overlooked.

15 MINUTES runs two hours. It is rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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