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15 Minutes

That’s Right, One Star!

By J. F. Graham

Written and Directed by John Herzfeld

Starring Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Karl Roden, and Oleg Taktarov

Rated R

Director John Herzfeld, of Don King: Only In America fame, brings his latest 15 Minutes to the silver screen. However, despite starring Robert De Niro, possessing incredible potential and starting with a bang, 15 Minutes all too soon waters down to a boring and formulaic mess.

De Niro stars as Eddie Flemming, a media-savvy homicide detective elevated to hero status with the help of his friend Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer), whose Hard Copy-esque news show, Top Story, introduces all of its segments by using the tagline, “Hard to believe? Watch!”

Upon arriving at the scene of a double homicide Eddie meets arson investigator Jordy Warsar, a young idealist who professes no love for the media and follows a strict ethical code, with lusty exceptions. Jordy (played zealously by Edward Burns) teams up with Eddie and they begin to pursue Emil (Karl Roden) and Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), two violent, clumsy, and completely inept ex-cons that have unleashed a plan to videotape their various murders and sell the footage to Top Story with the help of the opportunistic slime ball Hawkins, all the while hoping to escape incarceration, cut a movie deal and attain fame and fortune.

Unbelievable? I know. Before they manage to set their fool-proof scheme into action we see that they are first bombarded with a media bonanza of trashy daytime talk shows and over-the-top news stories that show one criminal after another reaching a celebrity-like status while never having to take any responsibility for their actions.

The film was written and directed by John Herzfeld, who has recently been quoted as saying that “we live in an age when even nutcases can become celebrities.” This statement is basically the idea behind the movie, and Emil and Oleg are just that, nutcases. Mindless cartoon characters that leave behind crime scenes so sloppy that any six-year-old child who has seen Scooby Doo more than once would have no problem bringing these two felons to justice.

Unfortunately the film offers no explanation as to why this phenomenon of celebrated nutcases exists, and as a result 15 Minutes becomes just another predictable police thriller. All the while it never seems to deliver the intended message. In a time when sensational journalism, realistic television programs, video news hounds, and the everyday person’s shameless desire to see themselves on the tube is rampant throughout our society, it makes us wonder just what started all this madness.

15 Minutes has the makings of a very powerful, thought-provoking film, with a recognizable cast and an accomplished director. But as Flemming, De Niro appears to be just going through the motions. He even manages to rehash the famous mirror scene from Taxi Driver, with a twist of course.

In the past De Niro has always managed to raise the bar when it came to convincing character roles. We will never forget characters such as Travis Bickle, Max Cady, or Jake LaMotta, just to name a few. Unfortunately, in 15 Minutes he just comes across as dull and unenthusiastic while Herzfeld substitutes trendy filmmaking style over substance of content. Hard to believe? Watch!