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