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This movie took a severe beating in the press and most reviews, so I
wasn't expecting much when I went to see it. However, I was pleasantly
surprised, and reassured that my distrust of what the newspaper
reviewers think is not misplaced.
This movie has a cast that includes the supremely talented Robert de Niro, Kelsey Grammar, and Edward Burns. It has some excellent writing and some top-notch acting performances. But its real accomplishment is how it makes you think.
The increasing relationship between crime and the media is not linear, and the movie does tend to oversimplify at times. In many respects, it suffers horribly from being predictable, although there were instances where it strayed sharply from the "rules" of formulaic movies. (Saying any more on that score would give away important aspects of the plot, so I'll refrain from elaborating.) Furthermore, in true Hollywood tradition, the main villains are dumb, completely amoral, and oh, did I mention foreign? The idea might have been to give an outsider perspective on the abuse of American culture, but that angle ultimately just plays into outdated audience prejudices against people who speak with an Eastern European accent.
Too, the movie has very graphic violence - but not as bad as I'd expected, and not as bad as what is shown in many other movies. Through creative camera angles, many of the bloodiest scenes are only obscurely hinted at, leaving the audience to fill in the pieces.
Not surprisingly, many entertainment reviewers disliked the movie, because it has the effect of exposing some of the more negative effects of the media. "15 Minutes" does not claim that the media causes violence; rather, it explains that the interplay between the two is ingrained in American culture. This movie may not be saying anything original, but it is sufficiently entertaining and thought-provoking to make it worth seeing.
Considering the critical drubbing this movie received, not to mention the fact that it's by the writer/director of Two Days in the Valley, I expected it to be pretty terrible. Surprisingly it turned out to be an exciting and occasionally quite funny thriller about two media obsessed thugs from the former Soviet Union who decide to become celebrities by committing a series of murders and videotaping the crimes. The movie is definitely not without serious flaws: for instance, nobody ever points out that it's almost impossible to mount a successful insanity defense in the US legal system. In a land where Jeffrey Dahmer and New York's highly delusional subway shooter are certified as sane these guys wouldn't have a shot in hell of making their case, and an insanity defence is the linchpin of their whole plan to profit from their crimes. Movie also ignores the fact that laws have been on the books to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes by selling their stories since the 1960's. Also, given the legal and ethical ramifications involved it's hard to imagine any credible scenario under which a news program, even a sleazy tabloid news program, would pay a million dollars cash to an at large murderer for a videotape of one of his crimes and then broadcast the thing live on television. Obvious flaws aside, 15 Minutes has several shockingly well-staged action sequences, great acting (except for the guy who played Ed Burns' boss--his grating one note performance went way over the self-parody line) and occasional welcome touches of black humor, like the very funny death scene of the thug who fancied himself a film director and manufactures the final shot of his movie for maximum emotional impact. All in all 15 Minutes is a dark and funny thriller and certainly a lot better than most of the schlock Hollywood churns out.
FIFTEEN MINUTES / (2001) ***1/2 (out of four)
By Blake French:
"Fifteen Minutes" is a powerful, thought-provoking, and unexpected thriller about real life. It is a thematic movie that makes a strong, supported, and convincing stand on many current controversial issues, targeting and exposing the many weaknesses and absurdities of the American legal systems. The film also incorporates prospects dealing with greed, power, popularity, the public eye, influences of media, the power of television, and the desire of immigrants to achieve fame in America. This is not your typical Hollywood action flick; it is occupied with twists and unconventional surprises in which many producers would stay far away. "Fifteen Minutes" is a movie with guts and impact, and for the first time in a long time, the theater audience where I screened the film gave it a recognizable applause as the closing credits appeared.
"Fifteen Minutes" is complete with big Hollywood names, like Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, and even includes cameos from several distinguishable actors: Charlize Theron has a neat little appearance as a recruiter for hookers, and David Alan Grier shows up as a pedestrian causing trouble in New York City. But the movie actually centers on two Eastern European immigrants named Emil Slovak (Karel Roden), and Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov). They have come to the United States looking for a man who owes them a large sum of money, but eventually discover opportunities for fame. They kill their debtors and capture the murders on a stolen home video camera. There is, of course, an illegal immigrant who witnessed the crime, Daphne (Vera Farmiga), who is now wary and on the run.
Enter homicide detective Eddie Flemming (De Niro), a local celebrity, and arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Burns), who could not care less about the media. They form a team to undercover what appears to be a fatal fire accident, but soon discover the scene was the location of a brutal murder. Enter a subplot where a veteran detective informs a novice of the same sort new ways to explore his profession. The story then takes an unexpected turn of events where the criminal's intentions explode into sadistic atrocity: Oleg and Emil plan to sell the video of their murders to a TV network anchor (Kelsey Grammer) for a million dollars. They intend to beat the charges with an insanity plea, also stating that they were abused as children. Why would the two immigrants want to do such a thing? To achieve fame-even if it is of a notorious nature.
We wait patiently for the story to take off with the setup, but it stays with two separate narratives for quite sometime. When the narratives do cross its obvious this is not your typical, run-of-the-mill action picture, but an insightful picture that says something about, among many other concepts, the power and influence of the media. The madman fascinated with video taping is "yesterday's news" already seen in 1999's "American Beauty." It does not have the same impact in this film, however, mostly because here it is more of a sadistic obsession never truly understood, rather than the passion and exploration in the multiple Academy Award winner. It is fun watching the incidences photographed with the home video camera; there are some cool special effects that add a nice touch to the scenes.
Robert De Niro gives another suave hotshot performance; it is coming to the point where his talent is more effective in shtick comedies like "Analyzed This." Regardless, the veteran actor grabs us by the collar and yanks with no regrets and a thought-provoking, determined attitude. The screenplay provides his character with an effective soft side through a romance with his girlfriend. Edward Burns ("Saving Private Ryan") is never really bad in a movie, but his personality feels too resigned and modest to be in these violent dramas. He has a few understood moments, and often his performance fits his character accordingly, but a braver, more aggressive actor may have fit the part better.
Surprisingly, the best performances in "Fifteen Minutes" come from the villains, Oleg Taktarov and Karel Roden. Both are very clever in their roles, which are also exceedingly well written: when the two encounter a visit with a local prostitute, the scene does not result in mechanical sex, but in violent misunderstanding that furthers the complications of the plot. Both actors are convincing and unpredictable. Many early critics have complained about the film's implausibility, but Taktarov and Roden portray their characters with such mean-spirited brutality and complex emotions, I believed every step they took.
John Herzfeld is the film's director. His last project, "2 Days in the Valley," was quite a bit different from "Fifteen Minutes." There are certain aspects of his filmmaking style that carry over, but for the most part this film stands on its own from his previous achievements. Herzfeld constructs "Fifteen Minutes" with complexity and thought. It is a brave, courageous movie, deserving of controversy but will likely pass as a theme-orientated action picture. I think most audiences will appreciate the production for what it is and how it informs us on such distressing issues. When we walk out of the theater, we get a sense that we trust in our government's legal system even less than we did before watching the movie.
The following review for the film `15 Minutes' will probably take you
that same time to read it. Wait! Come back! I was joking! This film is
another flick that satirizes the media's influence in depicting real life
crimes as sensationalistic newsgathering for the general public. We have
seen this before in films such as `Natural Born Killers.' Critics have
ridiculed `15 Minutes' because they say that the film actually
the same exact thing that it tries to satirize. It does this by showing
murder -type violence and utilizing famous stars in small cameo roles.
though I do have to agree with this concept that my colleagues (don't I
wish) have criticized, I should say to them to `just wait one minute, or
fifteen for that matter' and do not take it so seriously. Why? Because
film does entertain. I think that critics should just leave it at. By the
way, the film is about a homicide detective and an arson investigator who
hunt down some eastern european psychos who film their crimes on video.
Robert Deniro, who plays the homicide detective, is more low key in this
one; and Eddie Burns cinematic presence adds fuel to the fire as the
investigator. I really do have to say that I enjoyed mostly every minute
`15 Minutes' even though most critics don't second my opinion.
This movie is a commentary. It is a commentary of fame, of the media,
of America's justice system; and it's one of the best fictional film
commentaries I've ever seen. Robert De Niro and Edward Burns star as a
cop and a fireman, respectively, searching for two murderers played by
Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov. A few other great actors round out the
cast of this medium-paced thriller/actioner with some depth of thought.
At the very least it keeps you entertained until its cool ending.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who's ever watched a newscast, ever seen someone get off on the insanity plea or ever wondered what goes on behind the curtain of the justice system. Just see it.
15 Minutes is a thriller one needs to think about for a while, maybe even
sleep on it, especially before writing any comments.
I got the movie on DVD two days ago and I hardly couldn't wait to watch it,
because I had already read quite a few comments, mostly negative one's, on
it over the past few months.
At first I was kind of disappointed. I was not the kind of movie I had
expected. I was hoping to see a movie as great as `Heat' or `Ronin'. But one
cannot compare these three movies. They are completely different. So I let
my first impressions rest for a while and watched the movie the next day a
second time. 15 Minutes is not as bad a movie after all. It has its good
parts, though I would prefer some things to be different.
The movie clearly shows how greedy and immoral the media can be if it comes to win ratings and get some money, even though it appears to be overdone in some parts. `Bad news is good news!' That is how it has always been and that is how it will always be, as long as there is an audience. Who would watch a news channel with only good news? People want sensation, even though they don't want to admit it. But there is certainly a limit to what the media should broadcast. In this movie the media exceeds this limit by far. Furthermore the film quite well points out the problem with the insanity plea. Some critics say the film glorifies violence, which is not right. The two bad guys in this movie are so ugly and their crimes are so heinous, one cannot but loathe their deeds. I also want to mention how well chosen the cast is. Robert DeNiro is, as always, brilliant is his role. His performance is definitely the highlight in this movie. The action scenes are very well done too.
What I didn't like is the way the story goes in some parts. For example how the two criminals get access to Eddy's (Robert DeNiro) apartment. A famous detective just doesn't make a stupid mistake like this. Then the bad guy Oleg with the digital camcorder acts just way too silly, which lets him appear rather unrealistic to me. Even though he is meant to be crazy, his stupid behavior goes way too far. His character can not be taken seriously. Edward Burns as the arson investigator also has to act a little too unprofessional at times, which doesn't add anything positive to his character's credibility. All this gives the whole story an unrealistic touch from time to time, which is very sad. In general I don't like a movie to be cut down just to get it to an 2-hour length. Most of the time I prefer to have the deleted scenes put back in again, but this movie is really better off without them. The final scene has an interesting twist, but the coincidence with Nicolette is just too farfetched. Oleg's final appearance looks ridiculous and doesn't fit into the whole tragic, unless it were supposed to be a comedy. It is a tense thriller, with some suspense, though only two scenes really kept me on the edge of my seat. I also missed scenes introducing some more the characters played by Robert DeNiro and Edward Burns.
Nevertheless I rank it a 7 out of 10.
This a rough, edgy film but the interesting characters make it
entertaining for the full two hours. For some reason, I don't believe
this film got a lot of publicity.
Karol Roder doesn't get any billing but he's as much a star in this movie as big-names Robert Redford and Edward Burns. Another actor who also has a key role, Oleg Taktarov, has no billing! Wow, they really hosed the Eastern European actors in here.
The film is partially another indictment against the tabloid press. Playing the villain in that regard is good 'ole "Frasier" from TV: Kelsey Grammar. He plays a foul-mouthed tabloid television sleazoid "Robert Hawkins.
Sometimes this got a bit too edgy for me, nor did I appreciate Burns' verbal blasphemy, but I also enjoyed some of the black humor in here. Overall, it's not a film that, frankly, was that memorable yet I would watch it again.
I've been reading some of the previous comments, and to be frank, I don't
see what the big deal is. The main objection here is that this movie
actually does take on several themes, and at times the moods will shift
altogether, but you never lose your interest in the film- yet how can you-
with all the comedy, thrill, and action packed sequences; this sure is a
winner in my opinion. It's also a movie where, and I don't see how anyone
can deny this, the bad guys steal the show: two men wanting to make movies,
who came to America to be rich and famous, perhaps even to leave a legacy.
If you've seen the movie, then you know this, so why bother even going into
the messages this movie is sending out? There are some serious aspects to
it, and then there aren't, which is the same with all movies, but overall,
this is an Action/Comedy/Drama (Wow, that sounds weird) which is the
shortest title you can give it. I suggest this movie to everyone who is
willing to watch an original story that gives you everything you could want
in a film, perhaps not too recommended for a very serious crowd... If you
can't deal with that, just leave it alone, because going against this movie
is just plain pointless and you should get a new hobby. (Seriously....)
This movie ends on a fun note, and has something for everyone. Do yourself a favor and see it :)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of those genre movies that really exist to Say Something Important.
This one comes from a time when some people in America thought the
gravest threat to this country was Fast Food Media ala "A Current
Affair". Anyway, two criminals one Czech and one Russian (the movie
makes a big deal of distinguishing them, though it makes absolutely no
difference in the plot), come to America to kill a partner of their's.
They soon become immersed in the world of talk shows, and decide that
the quickest route to fame and fortune is to kill somebody famous,
plead insanity, go to the mental home, say they're not insane, then get
out and write a best selling book and make a movie. Or something, it's
not exceptionally clear although presumably that's the point.
(Although the movie has to allow its criminals enough smarts to be able
to plot deadly arson traps and track down witnesses in a foreign
country, which is unbelievable in the extreme.) Their target is Robert
De Niro, an improbably famous NYC cop who they see on the cover of
"People" Movie suffers in part from having its bad guys way out-act the
nominal protagonists, De Niro and Ed Burns, both of whom have the
charisma here of dead fish in a dying pond. So much so that I spent a
lot of the time hoping the bad guys would win. Movie also suffers from
a truly terrible script. Characters spout clichés as a way to
Illustrate the Point ("If it bleeds it leads!" Kelsey Grammar's
character says, as though it had never been said before). Oddball
situations arise for essentially no reason and the script has to do a
ton of backfilling in order to explain them, such as why Ed Burns, a
fire inspector, is basically De Niro's partner, or how a crazy Czech
killer knows enough to rig an apartment to burn up. Characters scream
at other characters about something or other, but it never seems to
mean anything in the long run. Etc. (The script does deserve to be
commended for one very neat plot twist halfway through, though.) And
the movie's oddly repellent. It wants to preach to its audience about
the dangers of mass media, but besides the general hypocrisy of having
a movie, of all things, tell me this, there's a specific vibe here that
glories in the same thing it's denouncing. There's a completely
gratuitous murder of a prostitute here, for instance, that's excitingly
shot and performed and seems to exist only to gin the ratings up to an
"R": I'd rather not be lectured on morality by a movie that does that.
In general, 15 MINUTES is a secret sharer in the very thing it denounces. Avoid.
Robert De Niro does great in this movie. Like we haven't heard that before. You can tell he tries to let Edward Burns have his time, but he is such a charismatic screen presence, people would probably pay to watch him sit in a chair for two hours. The movie around him is also good, touching on the interesting topic of the media's effect on violent crimes. Edward Burns does a good job, but i think the real stars here (except for De Niro, of course) are the two East European criminals who come to America searching for fame and fortune, played by Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov. They are funny and terrifying all at the same time. Oleg's character seems like a friendly guy, but he is actually a violent pervert. And Karel's character is just plain nuts. I recommend this movie for the great performances and it's thought provoking premise. 7/10
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