15 Minutes

There is a song in the musical Ragtime entitled He Wanted To Say, where a narrator sings the innermost thoughts of two characters. The song details what exactly they are thinking, the emotions they have, and tells of the reasons they want to act. While the narrator can is able to articulate this, the two characters cannot, and only say the barest minimum to get their point across to each other. He Wanted To Say sums up the efforts of writer/director John Herzfeld's (2 Days in the Valley) 15 Minutes. There is much to comment on media sensationalism on certain crimes, but this movie does not say it. Specks of lucidity bookend the movie, but the middle merely degenerates into a standard old cop/new cop team up to stop a pair of ruthless murderers.

The murderers are Oleg (Oleg Tartarov, Absolute Force, Counter Measures) and Emil (Karel Roden, Kytice, Prague Stories), two immigrants from Eastern Europe. Once in America, they see how nobody is willing to accept personal responsibility for their actions. They always blame their parents, a disability, society, or things like low self-esteem. Oleg decides to go on a murder spree, shift the blame away from him, and then reap then profits of book and movie deals. Emil videotapes their crimes on a camcorder (he has is obsessed by American movies). Detective Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro, Meet the Parents, Men of Honor) and arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns Saving Private Ryan, No Looking Back) step into this mess. Flemming is a seasoned veteran who enjoys using the media, particularly tabloid reporter Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer, Toy Story 2, NBC's Frasier) and girlfriend reporter Nicolette (Melina Kanakaredes, Rounders, NBC's Providence) to his advantage. Warsaw is the opposite; he would like nothing better than to never speak to a reporter.

Most of the movie focuses on Flemming and Warsaw hunting for Oleg and Emil. It is a typical manhunt, with many near misses and bullets flying all over. Nothing rises above stand police chase movies. Herzfeld also mixes in a little black humor. What is missing is a sense of balance and any meaningful social commentary. The Hawkins character has the most potential, but is absent for much of the movie. His mantra, "if it bleeds, it leads" never fully materializes. Warsaw's character could also serve as the anchor of 15 Minutes. He could learn a lesson about the necessity of media image or the compromise between his beliefs and Flemming's, but he doesn't. Near the end, his character undergoes a bizarre transformation that is almost completely out of character. It is a pity that 15 Minutes does not say anything about media obsession. Watch Natural Born Killers for a much more compelling look at this subject. With so much substance to mine through, Herzfeld settles on familiar retreads of movie plots, leaving this movie empty.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
2 hours, Rated R for strong violence, language, and some sexuality.

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