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15 MINUTES

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Avery Brooks, Melina Kanakaredes
Director: John Herzfeld
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date: August 14, 2001

“I love America…no one is responsible for what they do.”

Film ****

15 Minutes is more or less a wake up call, and is also a bold, brilliant, provocative, and deeply disturbing. Not since Oliver Stone’s film, Natural Born Killers, has a single movie explored the dark realms of violence and how the media exploits it to the point where crazed psychopaths have inevitably become celebrities as a result of it. Unlike Stone’s movie, however, 15 Minutes doesn’t necessarily relate itself to high profile murders that have occurred in real life, and it stills comes off as a very intense slap in the face. It works both as a police thriller, and as a thought provoking social comment on how tabloid television news is more or less helping the insane people the justice system is supposed to put away in prison.

Robert De Niro stars as Eddie Fleming, a long time dedicated NYC cop whose dedication and respect has come mostly from his time in the spotlight, thanks to tabloid reporter Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer) exploiting many of Eddie’s successful busts, resulting in Eddie being a bit of a celebrity himself, appearing in such fare such as the cover of People magazine. For his latest case, which is what drives the movie’s plot, Eddie is investigating a series of murders that have been committed by two immigrants, Emil (Karel Roden) and Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), who have just arrived in the country. The murders are linked because every killing follows with an act of arson, which attaches arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns) to the case. Jordy has no respect for the media, and doesn’t much appreciate Eddie’s presence on this case, but they are paired together, nonetheless against two men with a rare motive, which is when 15 Minutes really turns into an extremely provocative and original piece.

Emil and Oleg are insane without a doubt, and they are videotaping their murders, with Emil killing and Oleg directing what he calls his “first big movie”, in hopes of becoming famous and profitable by way of sending their filmed murders to a tabloid news source and convincing the media that they are temporarily insane, and being that the tabloid news is always in a competitive race to get their hands on any kind of graphic material, it sounds somewhat possible that something like this could indeed happen, as outrageous and over the top as it might seem.

Aside from the jolting social commentary that separates 15 Minutes from typical Hollywood fare, the movie is also a triumph of pure cinematic suspense and tension. Such scenes include a knockout foot chase between cops and the two killers, a bone chilling moment when the killers have De Niro tied to a chair and explain their truly insane idea to him, and the standout moment is a scene where Burns and a witness try to make their way out of an exploding apartment building.

Writer/director John Herzfeld, who also directed the wonderful 2 Days in the Valley, deserves immense credit for creating a daring, biting, and truly tension-filled suspense thriller. In an age where our justice system is frequently questioned and the media seem to glorify as much dirty sleaze than the country can really handle, Herzfeld made a bold step in fashioning out this film.

A thought provoking movie and an adrenaline rush all rolled into one package, 15 Minutes is a mind blowing thriller that is one of this year’s greatest films.

A word of warning; the violence in the movie is at times graphic and disturbing, as it may turn some viewers off.

Video ****

New Line is in top form once again, as they prove again that they can load everything onto a disc, and not have single flaw as a result. Their disc for 15 Minutes is a perfect example, as the video quality is of sheer DVD perfection. Anamorphically enhanced, consistently sharp, and illuming with vibrant, fluorescent colors, this is very much one of the best looking discs you will come across this year.

Audio ****

With its moments of pure suspense, tension, and its use of dark and slow beat techno music, 15 Minutes has been issued a dynamic audio job which enhances its intense feel and at times even makes it seem bigger than experiencing it at the multiplex. Particularly during crucial moments of suspense does the sound of this disc display pure top quality, with background music swerving from speaker to speaker, which very much enhances the suspense. The whole presentation, in fact, doesn’t falter at all, even when it’s just dialogue that is being heard.

Features ****

New Line has officially taken DVD to the next level with their new infinifilm series, which began with their recent release of Thirteen Days, and after experiencing the disc for 15 Minutes, I absolutely can’t wait for the next infinifilm release. Included on this superbly loaded disc are two documentaries, “15 Minutes of True Tabloid Stories” which includes interviews with such media figures as Jerry Springer and Maury Povich, and “Does Crime Really Pay” which includes a panel of experts relating the events in the movie to real life murder cases. Also included is a running infinifilm fact track, which offers detailed insight into just about every aspect of the movie, as well as access to brief interview segments relating to the movie. Also featured commentary by director John Herzfeld, deleted scenes with commentary, deleted scenes with director commentary, video footage of several scenes in the movie from the actual actor’s perspective, a music video of the song “Fame” by God Lives Underwater, and a trailer.

Without a doubt one of the best loaded discs of 2001.

Summary:

Gripping and thrilling from scene one, 15 Minutes is dynamic and strong cinematic piece that this reviewer cannot recommend enough. This is a definite must see power piece.