15 Minutes


Robert De Niro as Eddie Flemming
Edward Burns as Jordy Warsaw
Vera Farmiga as Daphne
Kelsey Grammer as Robert Hawkins
Melina Kanakaredes as Nicolette
Tygh Runyan as Stephen Geller
Avery Brooks as Leon Jackson
Karel Roden as Emil Slovak
Oleg Taktarov as Oleg Razgul

15 Minutes is a strange mixture of dark comedy and thriller. Burns and DeNiro lead a great cast.

Two wild and crazy guys, Emil and Oleg, come to the U.S. to collect on an old debt. Oleg is a film buff and starts to videotape their adventures. When their visit to an old friend ends in a grisly murder, Emil and Oleg torch the place to hide the evidence.

Fire Marshal Jordy Warsaw arrives to investigate the scene. He is joined by homicide detective Eddie Flemming, a famous media-savvy cop and celebrated hero in New York. The two form in informal mentor/apprentice relationship and begin tracking down the killers and a possible witness.

As the situation spirals out of control, Emil comes up with a plan to get them out of the mess. Playing on the problems with the American justice system and the media, he plans on videotaping his crimes as proof that he is insane while committing them. After being committed to a mental institution, he can legally sell his movie rights, suddenly become “cured”, and live as a wealthy and free man. Unfortunately, more people have to die before that can happen.

This film is rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality. (There’s also some nudity in it which I guess falls under “some sexuality”.)

What Worked:
As you would suspect, there’s good acting all the way around in this film. Robert DeNiro is in top form. His character in this film is just the right mix of tough guy and funny guy. He’s probably the most interesting character of the story. DeNiro and Ed Burns make a great team. Their mentor/apprentice relationship is very convincing and works well. Burns does a good turn as the fire marshal uncorrupted by politics.

Burns and DeNiro are backed up by a great supporting cast. They picked a wide variety of your favorite television actors for the other roles in the film. They include Kelsy Grammer (Frasier), Avery Brooks (Deep Space Nine), David Alan Grier (DAG), Melina Kanakaredes (Providence), Kim Cattrall (Sex in the City), and others. They all give good performances and have interesting moments in the film. I guess you could say they all get their 15 minutes in the movie.

The Russian and the Czech guys are also very impressive. Oleg Taktarov is a huge guy with an impressive military and martial arts background. Expect to see him in many more action films starting with Rollerball. Karel Roden was also the perfect psychopathic killer.

The trailers make this seem like a straight up action thriller. It is that and has some truly intense moments of impressive action, but there’s also a lot of dark comedy running through it. It makes for a strange mix and may throw many off guard, but like many other recent dark comedies, it seems to work well.

The other thing about this film is that it is frighteningly realistic. The media probably would eat up footage of murderers on a killing spree. The killers would also probably get off without a conviction if they paid a lawyer enough money. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing, but it’s interesting to hold up a mirror to our society from time to time.

What Didn’t Work:
This movie is fairly realistic for the most part, but that realism flies out the window towards the end. For example, early in the film Jordy handcuffs a mugger to a tree. Later on, he is suspended for doing that. That is probably what would happen in the real world. Towards the end of the film, Jordy unloads all the ammo from a gun into a guy in front of a pack of media. He then simply walks away from the scene and nobody questions him or stops him. That’s pretty unrealistic. The realism is what made the movie work, and by breaking from that working formula you get an unsatisfying Hollywood Ending.

The film also walks a fine line between making a good point and being hypocritical. It slams the media for glorifying violence. However, this film has a lot of gratuitous nudity and violence. Do they include it because it is integral to the story or because they think it is “cool”? Hard to say.

I’m also a little concerned about the latest trend in dark comedies. Some of the funniest movies to come along in the last year involve a lot of violent murders and gore. Is this what we can expect more of in our comedies? Why is this successful?

15 Minutes is not a bad movie. It’s actually very well made. However, I personally didn’t get a whole lot of entertainment out of it. I’d say it’s more of a renter than something you should rush to the theater to see.