Picks and Pans Review: 15 Minutes
Emil Slovak (Karel Roden), a vicious East European criminal just arrived in the U.S., is mesmerized by what he sees on the TV in his New York City hotel room. It's not the bonanza of consumer products and TV series that entrances him, but rather the tearful claims of victimization and temporary insanity which he hears people—many of them criminals—make on trashy talk shows. "I love America," Slovak proclaims to a fellow felon (Oleg Taktarov). "No one is responsible for what they do."
The media is the message in 15 Minutes, an initially clever crime thriller set in the post-O.J. Simpson era where cops, criminals and the press all meet to play the fame game. Media exposure is nothing new to Eddie Flemming (De Niro, electric as ever), a hard-drinking veteran police detective who's as skilled at nabbing headlines as he is at catching bad guys. He teams up with Jordy Warsaw (Burns), a young fire department investigator, to look into a double murder and arson, which the two men soon learn was committed by Slovak and his pal.
As long as 15 sticks to poking fun at the media (particularly an unctuous tabloid TV anchorman played by Grammer) and to Flemming and Warsaw sifting through evidence and tracking down suspects, the movie is solid enough. Written and directed by John Herzfeld (2 Days in the Valley), it goes wrong toward the end, when Warsaw goes gonzo and tries to make like Dirty Harry at his filthiest. Burns, to put it kindly, is no Clint Eastwood. When his character succeeds De Niro at the center of the action, the goings-on get pumped up beyond any believability, and 15 goes pffft.
The movie's best moment? De Niro slyly riffing on his classic "You talkin' to me?" scene from 1976's Taxi Driver. This time out, he's rehearsing sweet nothings to tell his TV reporter girlfriend (Kanakaredes) while standing in front of a men's room mirror. (R)
Bottom Line: Overstays its welcome