Fifteen Minutes


          Emil (Karel Roden) from the Czech Republic and Oleg (Oleg Taktarov)
  from Russia arrive in New York City to find a former colleague who aided
  them in a bank robbery and then absconded with the loot. This cohort is
  none too bright, as he included his return address on a letter to a friend,
  thus allowing the scary looking Emil and Oleg to find him and eventually
  send him and his wife to his maker. Emil then starts a fire to cover up
  the gruesome deaths. All the while Oleg,  who fancies himself a filmmaker,
  videotapes the proceedings with a stole camcorder.

          The aftermath of the fire and murders brings together flamboyant
  police detective Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) and a relatively young fire
  marshal Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns).  Flemming has a degree of fame,
  having been featured in
People magazine and on a popular tabloid show
  "Top Story," hosted by the unctuous Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer).
  Warsaw is a by-the-book kind of guy, unimpressed with fame. Together
  they grudgingly join forces to hunt for the killers, who seem to be just
  one step ahead of them. Their worlds collide when Emil decides they
  have to kill someone well-known in order to be able to sell their stories
  for big bucks. By watching TV talk shows like
Roseanne, Emil realizes
  that Americans aren't willing to accept responsibility for their actions;
  instead they find ways to profit off of them.

          Somewhere in John Herzfeld's screenplay lies buried several good
  ideas, but unfortunately much of what made it on screen doesn't come
  together. It's as if Herzfeld is shooting a first draft instead of a finished
  script, which is a shame. The notion that people still seek their fifteen
  minutes of fame is a relevant one and, while it may seem to have been
  satirized ad nauseum, is still ripe with possibilities. Herzfeld just can't
  seem to make all the disparate strands of his story come together in a
  believable fashion. For instance, the way in which he brings the characters
  played by De Niro and Burns together seems rather implausible, De Niro's
  romance with a TV reporter essayed by Melina Kanakaredes feels
  half-baked, the subplot involving Grammer's involvement with the killers,
  etc.

          Unfortunately, the name actors responded to the lackluster
  screenplay with somnambulant  performances. Since he sprang onto the
  scene in the early 1970s, De Niro has been respected as one of the USA's
  finest actors, but in recent years, he has suffered from overexposure. The
  toll his constant work has taken is that many of his performances have a
  half-heartedness to them. Other actors may love to work with him -- he
  IS De Niro -- but he has been coasting on his reputation (much like Marlon
  Brando) for a long time now. His turn as Eddie Flemming has no joy.
  He is too world-weary (with the emphasis on "weary") for a character that
  is supposedly loved and on the news often. Edward Burns is handsome
  enough to be a movie star but he is a better director than actor, although
  he should be given points for teaming with strong co-stars like Tom Hanks
  (in
Saving Private Ryan) and De Niro. Grammar appears to be having
  some fun skewering the tabloid journalists who have made a living from
  the actor's private life but the talents of the women (from Kanakaredes
  to Vera Farmiga as a witness to Charlize Theron in a cameo) are underused
  and wasted.

          The only spark comes from Herzfeld's decision to cast two relative
  unknowns as the villains. Roden is appropriately menacing and the muscular
  Taktarov (who competed in Ultimate Fighting  Contests) adds dashes of
  unlikely humor as the aspiring movie maker (who uses Frank Capra as his
  alias). These fresh faces lend a small boost to the otherwise routine
  proceedings. (Why Herzfeld opted for Eastern European villains is a question
  perhaps only he can answer; I suppose we should be grateful he didn't opt
  for Middle Eastern figures).

          15 Minutes unfortunately fails to fully capitalize on its intriguing
  premise and ends up wasting the considerable talents of all involved.



                  
Rating:                D
                  
MPAA Rating:        R for violence and language
                  
Running time:        120 mins.
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.