“15 Minutes” gets its title and theme from the Andy Worhol quote, “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.” What writer-director John Herzfeld has borrowed and built upon is a film about fame, notoriety, and the value Americans put on the limelight.
Herzfeld is angry with the “if it bleeds, it leads” nature of our TV news culture, with the value placed on media and its ability to define reality. He is also angered by the fact that everyone can be a victim if the price for the movie rights is high enough. Unfortunately he uses the gracefulness of a sledgehammer to get this point across.
The entire film centers on people chasing the elusive 15 minutes that Warhol described. There is Eddie Flemming (Robert DeNiro), a famed New York detective who uses his notoriety to help make his job a bit easier. His girlfriend, Melina Kanakaredes, is a news reporter who interrupts Eddie”s proposal of marriage so that she can anchor the 6 p.m. news.
Adding to the media frenzy is Kelsey Grammer”s portrayal of a Jerry Springer-like character who anchors “Top Story,” a gossip show for television. Ed Burns plays arson investigator Jordy Warsaw, one character who states he doesn”t care about news and fame, yet seems lured into it by the opportunity of working with detective Flemming.
This mix of characters is supposed to represent the good guys. On the other side of the coin are the two Eastern European thugs, Emil (Karel Rodin) and Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), who come to the United States to collect on a debt.
When the debtor comes up short, Emil murders him and his girlfriend while Oleg films it on a stolen video camera. Emil turns a bad temper and many murders into a ploy for fame. After watching Roseanne”s talk show on TV, he realizes that everyone in America can play the victim. He relishes in the fact that “in America, no one is responsible for what they do.” This turns into a scheme to sell video footage of a murder for movie rights and $1 million all under the auspices of insanity. He even picks up the phrase “I had low self-esteem” from Roseanne”s show to help portray himself as the victim.
Whether or not the film is believable, which it does not seem to be, is not the issue with “15 Minutes.” The film lacks in almost every dimension because the story line is not properly weaved together. Herzfeld has so many different elements of plot that he wants to merge that he seems to leave huge gaps in the storyline.
The gaps are not the result of too much editing, for the final cut of the movie is over two hours and painfully drawn out. Unfortunately for Herzfeld, the audience questions motives and actions of the films characters throughout so that at the end you are left unsettled and unsatisfied.