15 Minutes (2001)
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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have been to give an outsider perspective on the abuse of American culture, but that angle ultimately just plays into outdated audience prejudices against people who speak with an Eastern European accent.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.
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.
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 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 movie ends on a fun note, and has something for everyone. Do yourself a favor and see it :)
In general, 15 MINUTES is a secret sharer in the very thing it denounces. Avoid.
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.
And that story involves a cop named Eddie Flemming (Robert DeNiro), an inferior rehash of Kevin Spacey's Jack Vincennes in L.A. Confidential. Eddie uses the media to make his job easier- and as a result, has become a minor celebrity. Edward Burns plays Jordi Warsaw, a New York Fire Marshall who joins Eddie on the case to find two Eastern European criminals newly in the US to wreak havoc. They have learned from watching television that no one in America is responsible for what they do- and that the media run the show. Murderers become millionaires, and these two know it. They begin to kill and videotape their killings. They plan to kill somebody famous and sell it for millions of dollars. Eddie and Jordi have to stop them.
Now you might ask, why is a fireman on the case- The answer is that there is no answer. They throw in a bit with fire just to bring the Jordi character into it. All writers in Hollywood like to invent different jobs that allow people to be just like cops- without being cops. I guess they figure it makes it more exciting because the cop thing has been done so much. They're wrong. Making the character a fireman is a distraction, leaving the audience wondering what he's doing there. There is no justification for his presence at the crime scenes. Just making him DeNiro's character would have allowed the film to run much smoother.
There are lots of scenes, character developments, and even romances in this film that serve absolutely no purpose. Writer/Director Herzfeld was filling gaps where they didn't need to be filled. It shows that he was looking for something to do, that he only really had one idea, and was strained to make a two hour film out of it.
I mentioned the film's ugliness- It just leaves you with a sick feeling in your stomach. This isn't a sign that the material was effective, just horrible. In a way, the movie is mean spirited, and that is never a good thing. The way the humor was added showed absolutely no skill on the part of the filmmaker. He should have watched his own movie before releasing it, because if he did, he would know how awkward that humour is.
So it all sounds pretty bad, I know. The film's only high points come from generally good performances (DeNiro never fails, even if the script does) and a single point of originality. The film's message, regarding the injustice of the American system, and its preoccupation with fame, publicity, image and the media that creates it all, are points well taken, but not properly executed. The first hour of the movie is deeply unentertaining and choppy, but the second half, at least, becomes somewhat suspenseful and little bit interesting.
Overall, 15 Minutes should be avoided. It was an ugly movie with low points far outnumbering the high ones.
These two European men, Slovak and partner Razgul travel to the U.S. to make a new and popular life for themselves seeking riches and fame---carried on the backs of others, becoming ' victims' for their own aggrandizement a perverted pursuit of Freedom and power.
Through the city itself, tracking these two foreign madmen, Burns and DeNiro's characters are right in the way of death, putting their lives on the line to catch the two 'MTV /Jackass, Faces of death' deranged fans looking to pave a career way, from the demise of others. Robert works hard and convincingly in this, as the officer and Burns is good as a supporting man.
I say this is a white knuckle -fast action thrill ride that is great for action fans that love a biting and twisted story with a surprise end that leaves you knocked-out!! Plus I love the fact that I had a former female friend that was in this as a reporter in the crowd.
9 out of ten. There is only one reason that I gave this a 9 and not a ten. Watch it and you'll see.
- to die halfway through, before the film becomes truly dreadful. Afterwards I found myself forgetting that he had been there at all. A human character ... in "15 Minutes"? Surely I must have imagined it.
The hero (a fireman/cop) seems a nice enough guy at the start, which makes his subsequent moral nosedives all the more depressing. Not just depressing; sickening, too, since the film seems unaware that its hero is doing anything particularly wrong; in fact, he never loses his self-possession, and we're clearly meant to be cheering him on. Ugh. For the record, here's the worst of it (more spoilers ahead, obviously):
(1) He kidnaps the villain (who was already under arrest), and takes him to a warehouse for a reason that's never clearly stated - I presume it's to inflict pain.
(2) He confronts the lawyer who got the villain off on a contrived insanity plea to deliver some high-horse posturing. And what does he say? The kind of what-about-the-victims-of-crime talkback radio speech that ought to remain buried there. Does it occur to ANYONE in this kind of film that the purpose of courts is not, repeat NOT, to exact revenge?
(3) He shoots the villain. Six times. Arguably, the first shot freed a hostage, and, if you think the villain needed to die, then the second shot achieved something, too, in killing him; but the remaining four shots were pure bloodlust. There was little to justify even the first shot. The "hero" was no longer a policeman, but a private citizen taking the law into his own hands; moreover, the villain had already been decisively defeated (you have to pay attention to notice this, since by the final scene the director has long since forgotten what his film was supposed to be about). What's particularly disgusting is the way this scene is presented. We see law enforcement officials smiling to themselves as the hero - now a criminal himself - walks away from the scene of the shooting. Nobody stops him. Our hero, we're meant to think, having become a gunslinger, is now a MAN. Wrong. He was a man at the start of the film; he is now a petulant child.
The film ends with so much random, tawdry sensation that you have to stop and ask: WHAT, exactly, is its complaint against random, tawdry sensation on television?
15 Minutes is such a dispiriting mess of a something-or-another. There are so many good things that get lost or wasted or used incorrectly. Only three things about this movie are done well. Whenever Karel Roden, the lead killer is smoking a cigarette, you swear there's a hallucinogenic drug in the tobacco--he just looks crazier with every drag. In between all the stupid twists and turns, there are a few that just leave you gasping with surprise and shock. Finally, the scene with Edward Burns and Vera Farmiga trapped in the apartment with fire advancing on them and the bad guys watching from across the street was one of the more suspenseful, yet not ludicrous set pieces I've recently seen in a movie.
Unfortunately, a smidgen of good here and there does not fill 121 minutes. When the parody is played out and the roar of ritualistic gunfire has dissipated, your left with nothing much more than a remake of David Bowie's "Fame" blaring in your ears.
Not a good note to leave on.
"15 Minutes" is a graphic, often disturbing, roller-coaster ride of a film which basically depicts how sleazy the media can be. The acting is SUPERB and the characters are very believable. DeNiro gives an outstanding performance as a famous local cop who is obviously well respected and good at what he does. Ed Burns is the local fire marshall who also does a wonderful job of acting humble to DeNiro's somewhat flamboyant character. The men who play the killers are INCREDIBLE actors who play sociopaths at their finest. Kelsey Grammar does a wonderful job as the sleazeball journalist who will do anything for a good story. While I didn't like his character, I loved to hate him, which is always a good thing.
There is a lot of graphic violence in this movie, which didn't bother me but may bother some. It is definitely not a movie for kids. The only problem I had with this film was it's cliched message. I mean, we already know that the media is sleazy, but what makes "15 Days" special is the way in which Grammar gets a hold of his sleazy footage. That, to me, was unique.
If you're a DeNiro fan don't miss this one.
What this film has is a very clever self-referential notion: another film about films, but one that directly indicts its own audience. It also has two excellent bad guys. These guys really move like East Europeans (like Liam in 'Schindler'), which starts out with a set of movements that is rare in film, and adds an unusual logic with a visual metaphor.
Plus we have deNiro in a role that is more apt than any of his recent ones. He plays someone who lives to be seen by a camera. (He practices his proposal as if it were to be filmed -- shades of "Taxi Driver" -- plus his intended is reporter!) He uses a different set of moves than the visitors, and which are natural to the man, and are already common enough to be self-parodied. But watching an actor act like an actor is a treat, especially when we have two guys who turn into actors and a slew of TeeVee people who are in front of cameras, but who don't know the moves. Then deNiro gets killed. That's novel. Theron has a powerful few minutes. Farmiga is lovely, playing much the same as her "Autumn" role.
With this alone, Soderburgh could have done really well. This could be the sort of stuff that would make up for Ritchie's fluff problem. But in Herzfeld's hands, it turns to goo, because he lards it up with so many formulaic devices.
The primary problem is the Burns character, Warsaw. Everything about him is tired. This is a fellow that avoids the camera, avoids people, acts as the center of intelligence, the detective, the spine of the film. But he actually plays none of these things, just an automatic device, played by a rank mugger. This problem of stereotype is compounded by the introduction of the anchor and lawyer. Its the easiest thing in the world to poke fun at these smarmy types. But what we have here are cardboard.
This formulaic machinery progressively drags things into the mediocre until the banal ending, with the hero walking away having tasted his revenge. Oh why do writers not give endings the attention they deserve? Why does Hollywood force such drek, always on the end?