15 Minutes (2001)

15 minutes IMDb

This is a movie with a promising premise that quickly becomes boring. 15 Minutes attempts to be social commentary on reality television and celebrity, but doesn’t quite succeed. It’s too convoluted and too long.

I’m really struggling to put together a review of this film. While I didn’t hate it, I didn’t find it compelling enough to keep my attention. The story revolves around two sets of characters– ex-convicts turned murderers trying to make a buck off their crimes, and a cop and fire marshall who team up to catch them. The idea of criminals profiting from their crimes is interesting, but the hoops the movie must jump through to get to this point are too much. They involve one ex-con taping a string of murders committed by the other, selling one of these to a gossip “news” program, staging an insanity defense, admitting he is not actually insane once committed to a mental hospital, and then selling his story due to double jeopardy. The plan alone is implausible, but is made boring to boot because the plan never comes to fruition. This is one time I actually wanted the criminals to succeed, if only because the movie would have been more exciting to watch.

I think the biggest issue with 15 Minutes is that it can’t decide what it wants to be. It starts as a crime thriller, but switches gears in the second half to deliver social commentary verging on satire. The problem is that the story needs to be believable to pull this off, and it isn’t. The insanity defense is extremely difficult to prove and is rarely used in real life, despite what television and film would lead you to believe. If it had been made clear that the ex-convicts planned on using this defense because they’d seen it on TV, then that would have been one thing. But I get the distinct impression that the screenwriter has been watching too many movies himself; it just smacks of lazy writing.

This movie also felt about half an hour too long. It’s only two hours, but it felt like I was watching it forever. Again, the story just wasn’t compelling enough to suck me in or make the viewing enjoyable.

Rating: D+

15 Minutes is an interesting commentary about today’s world, where a reality star can become loved by the public for doing nothing, or some socialite can become famous by releasing a sex tape. This movie was made when reality television was in its infancy, and if anything, this film is even more relevant now.

15 Minutes is the story of two immigrants (Karel Rodon and Oleg Taktarov) who come to America with the intention of becoming famous. They quickly realise that the easiest way to do this is too become infamous. They start committing murders and filming them. Having their kills caught on camera will no doubt prove they were insane and not fit for jail time. After a short stint in an insane asylum, they would be free to reap the rewards of any movie and book deals that follow. In their way is Detective Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro), a reality star in his own right. Cameras follow him everywhere as he is one of New York’s top cops and has solved several high profile cases over the years. Together with a young fire marshall (Edward Burns), he must solve this string of murders before it is too late.

As I said before, 15 minutes is even more relevant than when it was first released. The world is full of duds like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, famous for doing nothing. I really enjoyed the commentary on today’s society.

De Niro is great as the grizzled detective, as he always is. The two European immigrants also shine. They are both very depraved, especially Karel Rodon. He really pulls off his character who just wants to be rich and famous by any means necessary. Ed Burns and De Niro work really well together. Both are terrific actors, and it is on show here. Kelsey Grammer also appears as a newscaster looking for a scoop. He is deceitful and clearly having a lot of fun away from Frasier Crane. His character could not be further apart from the bookish psychologist he became famous for on television.

I really enjoyed this crime drama, there are enough twists and turns to keep you entertained, and the acting is good. 15 minutes is an original story that is only getting more and more relevant as reality television shows invade our lives.

Rating: B-

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