15 Minutes

Directed by John Herzfeld
Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov, Kelsey Grammer, Vera Farmiga, Melina Kanakaredes, Avery Brooks.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
March 12, 2001

Movieland is a strange, wonderful place. Where else can a homicide detective make the covers of both the New York Post and People? Where else can said detective be romantically involved with a WB affiliate news reporter? Where else can he become a de facto partner with a fire department arson investigator? Nowhere, of course. Such things can only happen when movie cameras are rolling -- and they seem to happen quite often.

They all manage to happen in 15 Minutes, which stars Robert De Niro as Detective Eddie Flemming, who has become a national celebrity after a few high-profile collars on his New York beat. He has a deal with Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer), host of the national tabloid show "Top Story", to clue him in to NYPD operations so that cameras can be there at the moment of arrest. Oddly, he doesn't give such juicy scoops to his girlfriend, Nicolette (Melina Kanakaredes), a WB11 reporter that tries in vain to interview him after he finishes his business.

At the scene of a fire in which two human corpses have been found, he encounters Fire Marshal Jordy Warsaw (Edward "I'm Not Kookie" Burns), and proceeds to commandeer the arson investigation. Luckily, Jordy is able to point out that the people had been dead before the fire started, which somehow leads them to the trail of a pair of killers. Czech criminal Emil (Karel Roden) and his slow-witted Russian sidekick, Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), somehow end up in America to settle some debts. Emil starts killing people while Oleg -- who dreams of being Frank Capra -- films the murders on a stolen camcorder. One witness (Vera Farmiga) slips away, so Eddie and Jordy try to protect her from Emil and Oleg.

Make any sense to you? Well, could you try explaining it to me? I can't figure it out at all. The incompetent direction and screenwriting of John Herzfeld prevents the film from being understood by any rational mind. Instead, he relies on clichés meant to lull the audience into a sense of familiarity while a random collection of images and words are presented to them. 15 Minutes is not so much a film, but an exercise in torture by cinema.

Never before has any film been given a cast that is so entirely above its artistic level. How in this universe did New Line manage to get De Niro to do this film? No doubt a lot of money was involved, and not just in salary. De Niro's Tribeca Productions is listed in the credits among the production companies, so he must be getting a huge chunk of the revenue, as well. After De Niro's casting, the rest falls into place. I mean, who wouldn't want to work with De Niro? He can even make crap like this look credible at times. So, then comes Burns and Grammer and all the rest, embarrassing themselves for the sake of working with one of the greatest actors of our time.

Thanks to this Hollywood logic, 15 Minutes exists and has finally been released nationwide. It was supposed to come out at the same time as De Niro's last film, Men of Honor, but was delayed to keep his output spread out. After reading this review, you can probably figure out why they didn't bother trying to release it in 2000 to get award nominations. They knew it was a stinker, and banished it to the dregs of winter, where it belongs.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
15 Minutes (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
15 Minutes (2001) -- VHS
15 Minutes (2001) -- DVD
15 Minutes, a screenplay novelization by Gary Goldstein -- Paperback
15 Minutes: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan