Movie Review – 15 Minutes (2001)

Director: John Herzfeld

Stars: Robert De Niro, Ed Burns, Kelsey Grammar, Avery Brooks, Melina Kanakaredes, Vera Farmiga, Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov

15 Minutes is a commentary on our celebrity-obsessed culture. Two Eastern Europeans Emil (Roden) and Oleg (Taktarov) go to America and they soon realize they can become rich by going on a killing spree and then pleading insanity, ensuring that they will be excused from the crimes and then having lucrative book and movie deals waiting for them. Hoping to stop them are Eddie Flemming (De Niro) a hero cop who uses his fame to help him in his investigations, and Jordy Warsaw, a fire marshal who is jealous of the celebrity status Flemming enjoys. 

Being a huge Trekkie I was excited to see Avery Brooks in a rare role, but in truth all the supporting cast was good, especially Kelsey Grammar. The subject matter of 15 Minutes is very relevant and it is awful how people can become celebrated after performing heinous deeds. There is a fascination with the macabre, and as much as we are loathe to admit it there is something about killers that inspires our curiosity, hence the popularity of so many police procedural shows and crime dramas. It gets taken to an extreme in this film, but sadly it didn’t strike me as too unbelievable.

Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov were brilliant as the criminals. At first they were bumbling and bickering with each other, but as their plan came together we saw how ruthless and menacing they could really be. I thought they actually outshone De Niro, which is saying something. Some of the film is shot through the eyes of Oleg, who uses his handheld camera to record their misdemeanors. This allows the director to indulge in some arty effects and lends the film a voyeuristic atmosphere.

It takes a while to get going, and some of the plot points rarely stray from Hollywood convention, but there is an entertaining film here. There is a strong criticism in that by depicting gory murders and violence it seems to show things that it criticizes the mass media for glorifying, and at times it seems to take these scenes to an extreme and use them for shock factor. I don’t think it breaks the trappings of the genre as much as it would want, but I think it’s a decent attempt at commentary anyway.

With the explosive action and the celebrity cameos, perhaps the point the movie tries to make is lost, but it’s a pretty good film with some inventive camera work and charismatic performances by the villains.   

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