Pop Art legend, Andy Warhol, once said “In the future, everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” With the reality-programming craze well underway the world is obsessed with fame and fortune. One film attempts to examine the root of all evils: the media. John Herzfeld’s action film, 15 Minutes, plays on the human fascination with celebrity, revenge and tragedy.
New York City is the setting for a gruesome double murder. Media mogul and homicide detective Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) searches for answers. Joined anxiously by arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns), the two men comb the streets of Manhattan for Daphne (Vera Farmiga), a lone witness to the crimes.
As the story unfolds, these top-notch detectives are lead to Emil Slovak (Karel Roden) and Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov), a pair of eastern Europeans who come to America to claim money owed to them. Emil, the mastermind behind the crimes, maliciously prepares his defense based on loose examinations of talk shows and the judicial system. His accomplice, Oleg, seeks the “American Dream”: to become an acclaimed film director. With a stolen camcorder, Oleg captures their exploits on camera.
Tabloid news anchor Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer from NBC’s “Frasier”) seeks popularity and booming television ratings. Soon enough, opportunity knocks and the tapes become available for purchase. Motivated by greed, Hawkins tosses aside morals, ethics and dignity for a racy prime-time show.
De Niro and Burns, two gifted actors, are unfortunately not able to showcase their talent in this film. Lacking complexity, their flaws are hidden and their characters become uninteresting good guys.
Surprisingly enough, the film’s nemeses, Emil and Oleg, are supreme representations of humanity. Throughout their capers their weaknesses and fears evolve, as well as their corruption and villainy.
Attempting to rise above the conventions of the action film genre, 15 Minutes combines the car chases, the massive explosions and the sensationalized murders with moments of humorous dialogue and impressive reflections upon the media industry.
Even though 15 Minutes beautifully begins as a social commentary on the media’s search for appalling imagery, the movie loses strength as it continues. The characters are merely clichés, the plot is hopelessly predictable and the film ultimately lacks reality.
Although his intentions are worthwhile, Herzfeld fails to bring the audience beyond the simple fact that tabloid media sucks. Playing on the audience’s intelligence, Herzfeld does not give the masses any new revelations.