"America Likes to Watch"
A few years ago a movie was made that supposedly reflected the American public's fascination with crime and the relationship between criminals, the media, and the ways in which the two feed off each other like leeches. The movie was an over-the–top jumble of violence, exaggerated reality, and a message that America is one effed up place that idolizes and actually rewards the criminally insane. I realize people tuned in to watch OJ flee from the police, but that doesn't mean society condones murder and OJ is the best example I can think of where the people "supported" an alleged criminal. In general, it seems murderers, rapists, thieves, and all other scumbags are frowned upon by society and no one even notices when they are locked up and are never heard from again. So why does Hollywood insist upon every now and then holding up a mirror to society in an attempt to show us that we are all fame obsessed, media controlled monkeys who wouldn't know right from wrong if it bit us on our pretentious asses. And so now, in the unambitious tradition of the eminent Natural Born Killers - comes the spectacularly underachieving 15 Minutes.
Perhaps there is a time and place where a good Robert DeNiro, Ed Burns buddy- cop movie exists; but as for this one, it appears there was damage done in the editing room. What ends up on screen is an overlong, inconsistent montage of cops-and-robbers' clichés, (yes, and a captain who speaks only in forehead vein pulsing screams) melded with a ridiculous morality play about the American dream and the twisted, if not implausible, methods people may go through to achieve that dream.
Why is it that only in movies there are such entities as hotshot "celebrity" cops? I have been living in this city for 23 years and the only cops that have gotten any real notoriety are the corrupt ones. In the New York of 15 Minutes, DeNiro plays Eddie Fleming, a seasoned officer as well known and influential around these parts as Howard Stern. Fleming's got connections with the hot Television Magazine show hosted by Kelsey Grammer. Grammer, who looks like he's taking the easy paycheck and going home, is here to represent the "we-sell-our-souls-for-the-good-story" code that the media embodies in most movies. Ratings are everything in this universe and the name "Fleming" equals ratings. To see a divergent, more convincing 'take on the media', rent Michael Mann's The Insider.
When two sleazy Eastern Europeans, one ex-con Russian and one bizarrely stupid wannabe Frank Capra Czech, come to town- they gather, by keenly observing our culture via Grammer's show (not Cheers) and daytime trash that murdering people has the potential to make them 'rich and famous' in America. As Yaakov Smirnoff once said, "What a Country". The bad guys are by-the-book creations ready to be loathed by the audience. They speak English in a bad foreign accent, smoke cigarettes down till they are sucking their fingertips, dance around with big smiles when they get "real crazy", and seem to just kill, kill, kill (more by accident then on purpose).
Lucky for them that Czech has been filming all the murders for his personal home movies. Now they realize that they can cash in by filming some other murders. This is a fine premise; it's just that director John Herzfeld didn't know how to handle it. The pacing of the movie is contradictory. At times, when in action mode, cars and people are racing through the city streets, but at other times Herzfeld supplies low tempo "filler" scenes that consist of meaningless exchanges between characters. Any and all attempts to add romance to this movie were good times to go to the bathroom. Even the main story line has some significant boo-boos.
The first mistake was teaming up Ed Burns' fireman-cop with Deniro's street cop. It is unbelievable from the get-go that these two would partner up to solve a string of non-arson related crimes. Mr. Burns should stick to writing lighthearted talky romantic comedies; a place where he fits in. His voice, his demeanor – they don't mix well with hard-boiled action unless, perhaps, when he is shuffled into a big cast (like Saving Private Ryan) where he can melt away into the scenery.
The bad guys are also a bit of an enigma, although they are entertaining in an annoying way. They carry out their crimes with such intelligence and ingenuity, yet they make such an elementary mistake in their analysis of American values. Even with the best lawyer and publicity reps in town these two would never be celebritized by the public simply for the reason that they don't have the looks or the eloquence.
In Three Sentences or Less....
Don't waste your time.