Directed by: John Herzfield
Written by: John Herzfield
Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Avery Brooks, Melina Kanakaredes
Getting any semblance of notoriety or “15 minutes of fame” will cause people to do some truly odd things including the creation of this film. Gaining that popularity requires a platform doing so. At the time of this review being written, different social media websites assist with that pursuit but In 2001, sensationalism through the media provided it.
Called upon to investigate an arson incident, Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns) teams up with publicly revered NYPD detective Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) when the potential for foul play appears. They discover that two men have arrived in New York looking to produce murders and sell it to television stations to garner celebrity status thus getting “15 minutes of fame.”
If you sat down and pitched a lousy detective drama from the 2000s, 15 Minutes would hit every single qualification with how drab and uninteresting the final product turned out. Certainly a product of its time with some shoddy storytelling, but with a message that still rings true today. That message being the sensationalism of the media and how it can be manipulated in one’s favor if they know how to play the game. The character Eddie Flemming uses the media to his advantage. He has essentially become a celebrity detective, who nearly gets mobbed by paparazzi and receives cheers everytime he goes outside. I would understand if the people thought Flemming was actually Robert De Niro, but no they constantly cheered on Victor Flemming, which would just never happen. He garnered favor with the media due to his willingness to be more open about investigations than most cops would. It makes others in the profession not respect him because of that.
As explored in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, certain things sell well to the general public. They want access and they want to see things that scare them. If only positive things aired on the news then the general viewing public would be less likely to switch it on. The criminals in 15 Minutes understand that aspect of American culture and want to utilize it to their advantage. They plan to murder some people while videorecording it to sell to the media for money and to have their faces all over the news. They realized very quickly how to play the game and want to make some money in the process. It serves as their driving force and ultimately leads to their undoing.
The cast for this film features the great Robert De Niro, but also some actors who made it big a decade later. De Niro puts on a typical 2000s performance of his but you can tell he’s having some fun with the character. In this role, Edward Burns started his run of a bountiful 2000s, which paired him with De Niro here and as a romantic lead in other films. He gives the typical Burns performance, but I must say I do miss seeing him in more feature films. 15 Minutes also features early and small roles for both Charlize Theron and Vera Farmiga with the former portraying the head of an escort service and the latter as a witness to the crimes committed by the main villains. They all did just fine, but the villains were absurd cartoons in the film.
The film feels entirely too long for the story it attempted to tell and had some fairly putrid dialogue throughout. It’s everything I expected it to be upon flipping it on. There were elements of it that I did enjoy because these types of detective thrillers have their inherent entertainment value but those good moments come few and far between to feel positive about the film. It belongs as a relic of the 2000s and becomes instantly forgettable the very next day because it leaves no real lasting impact.