15 Minutes
dir-scr John Herzfeld
with Robert DeNiro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov, Melina Kanakaredis, Vera Farmiga, Avery Brooks, John DiResta, David Alan Grier, Kim Cattrall, Charlize Theron
release US 9.Mar.01; UK 23.Mar.01
NewLine 01/US 1h57 3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
America likes to watch Herzfeld showed great promise with his first film (2 Days in the Valley); and two-thirds of the way into this one he still hasn't let us down--this is a crackling original thriller, with offbeat pacing, intriguing characters and situations, and with some clever themes about fame and fortune (ref: Warhol's "everyone will be famous for 15 minutes" quote) gurgling subtly underneath. Then the plot takes a grim turn (fair enough), and it all goes horribly wrong.

At the centre is the quirky pairing of veteran New York detective Eddie Flemming (DeNiro), a flamboyant public figure who likes media attention and knows how to use it, and the younger much-more-serious fire marshal Jordy Warsaw (Burns). They're brought together when two Eastern Bloc thugs (Roden and Taktarov) begin a killing spree using a fire to cover their tracks. The twist is that the killers are also videotaping their crimes--in a warped cinema verite attempt to mimic their hero Frank Capra (!). The story also involves an ambitious tabloid TV reporter (Grammer), a terrified witness (Farmiga), and a news reporter (Kanakaredes) who's also Eddie's girlfriend.

The film zips along with energy and flair, keeping us off guard with the story's sheer quirkiness and some very nice character touches. But when it slows down in the final third (before the madcap finale sequences), we see the joins where it's been pasted together from other movies. And the final section is just too contrived to work at all--as the characters suddenly stop behaving like themselves and do all kinds of ridiculous movie things. This is a real shame, because up to this point there's a wonderful rawness to the film. DeNiro and Burns are excellent as usual and play off each other very nicely indeed; Grammer is terrific as Frasier's evil twin; Roden and Taktarov are astonishingly scary and funny at the same time; and cameos from Grier, Cattrall and Theron work perfectly. This makes it even more galling that Herzfeld didn't have the courage of his convictions to go for a more challenging, tricky ending that would actually say something about America's media obsession.
themes, language, violence cert 18 5.Mar.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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