15 Minutes


Directed by: John Herzfeld
Written by:John Herzfeld
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammar, Avery Brooks, Melina Kanakaredes, Karel Roden
Released: May 17, 2001
Grade: B-

I know that writer/director John Herzfeld is trying to tell us something in 15 Minutes but I’m a little confused as to just what it is.  In the opening “15 minutes”, we are introduced to two Europeans, Emil and Karel, who are fresh out of jail for robbery and have arrived in America to track down an old partner for their share of the loot.  Karel also sees his stay in America as a chance to fulfil his dream of making movies.  He steals a video camera and is uses it religiously to film his life.  When both find no money awaiting them, Emil kills the partner and his wife but Karel’s camera has captured the whole incident.

On the case is high-profile police officer Eddie Fleming (DeNiro) and fire officer Jordy Warsaw (Burns).  Eddie’s celebrity status has him on the cover of People magazine and a regular on a trashy expose TV show, Top Story, hosted by Robert Hawkins (Grammer).  Karel sees an edition of Top Story profiling a criminal who is receiving millions in book and TV deals for his story which gives him an idea.

Welcome to America - “the country where no one is responsible for what they do” as Karel acutely phrases it.  His plan is to kidnap a high profile celebrity (and what better choice than Eddie Fleming), kill him and sell the video tape to Top Story for a million dollars.  What news network would turn down such exclusive footage?

From the above, you’d think this is a story about how cruel and sick the media can be but the plot is so ludicrous, it’s impossible to believe.  As if anything this bizarre could happen in reality and it plays more like a spoof than a serious cop thriller.  It’s ironic that the film features graphic violence given the message it promotes.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Robert DeNiro and Ed Burns make a great team and save the film from total degeneration.  Watching the two zip across New York hunting for clues is suspenseful and I learnt a few tricks of the trade along the way.  Where exactly has Ed Burns been lately?  This is his first film since Saving Private Ryan three years ago and his performance makes us realise what we’ve missed.

I’m often talking about censorship on screen and am tired of those trying to ban certain material.  It’s all a case of supply and demand - if you don’t watch it, studios will stop making it.  The recent Big Brother Uncut series has resulted in Channel Ten being flooded with abusive letters and emails.  Boohoo.  It is that simple - if you don’t like it, don’t watch it and don’t spoil it for those people who choose to watch.

I won’t continue with my whole “freedom of speech” essay but it’s easy for a film to criticise those that televise shocking material when it doesn’t look at the other side of the argument.  Like most decisions, you have a choice and in this instance you can either go see 15 Minutes or you can stay at home.  I’d advise you to stay home but like any of the reviews I write, is it really going to stop you?