I personally blame Phil Donahue for the state of television today. It was his impromptu decision to run into the audience during one of his shows that led to the development of the participatory talk show. Once he had established himself, others tried to wrest away his talk show crown, spawning "Oprah", "Montel" "Jerry Springer" and a host of others where the audience fights for their chance at video immortality. This trend for the outrageous led to Tabloid TV, with the likes of "Hardcopy", and "National Enquirer" and evolved into reality programming, with shows like "When Animals Attack", and "World's Worst Police Chases II". The media is only too willing to provide people with their time in the spotlight, and the more outrageous, the better the ratings. Damn you Phil!
America is touted as the land of opportunity, and no one knows that better than the international criminal element. Emil and Oleg, recent Eastern European émigrés, decide that the quick route to infamy and wealth is to exploit the thirst for bleeding edge news with a killing spree caught on video. All they have to do is turn on the camcorder and start the killing. Charged with capturing these "stars" is supercop Eddie Fleming, a media savvy homicide detective. He is assisted by Jordy Warsaw, a naïve fire investigator unfamiliar with the system, and shadowed by Robert Hawkins, a tabloid tv reporter / media whore whose motto is "If it bleeds, it leads."
The writers of 15 Minutes had the opportunity to seriously examine the media's role in immortalizing criminals. To their credit, the first two thirds of the film are well written, and the characters are believable. Unfortunately the last half-hour of the film is rife with the very flash and melodrama that it is supposedly condemning, and the film spirals into the absurd. Every Hollywood cliche that comes to mind, from fake deaths, deathbed confessions, wild shoot-outs, and pat endings is thrown into the mix, for an uninspired, disingenuous wrap-up.
Robert De Niro, is, well, Robert De Niro. An actor's actor, he always does what it takes to get the character, whether that means gaining forty pounds to play Jake LaMotta or speaking fluent Italian for the young Vito Corleone, he gives it his all. As Eddie Fleming, his is the only character with true screen presence and the source of the one truly emotional scene in the film. Edward Burns (Jordy) lacks the range necessary to carry off his character and is relegated to silly sidekick. Karl Rodin and Oleg Tarthakov (Emil and Oleg) are not crazy enough to be frightening, and become a parody of Abbot and Costello (except that they happen to use guns). Finally, Kelsey Grammar's sniveling take on Hawkins is a caricature of everything bad about the reality tv genre and offers little insight. I did however enjoy Bruce Cutler's cameo as a slimy opportunistic lawyer (he was John Gotti's lawyer when he was still known as "The Teflon Don"), quite a stretch I'm sure.
Once again, a film with a potentially powerful message is dumbed down to pander to the very interests it supposedly takes issue with. 15 Mintues isn’t even worth that much of your time.