- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2001

A rampaging new crime thriller from writer-director John Herzfeld, "15 Minutes," proves insufferable and self-defeating. No one in the cast qualifies as a lucky charm, from co-stars Robert De Niro, Edward Burns and Kelsey Grammer through bit players Charlize Theron, Roseanne Barr, David Alan Grier and Peter Arnett.
Mr. Herzfeld envisions several frenzied days in New York, invaded by two monsters from East Europe, Karl Roden as psycho-slasher Emil and Oleg Taktarov as thug-shutterbug Oleg. Oleg imagines himself a latent Frank Capra. He likes to videotape the appalling crimes perpetrated by Emil, who resorts to murder and arson whenever he feels peevish. Thats more or less every minute within camera range.
Soon after clearing customs, these wild and crazy undesirables go berserk in defenseless Manhattan. Their prolonged, publicity-conscious killing-and-burning spree energizes Mr. De Niro as a celebrated homicide detective named Eddie Flemming and Mr. Burns as an unsung arson investigator named Jordy Warsaw. This law-abiding partnership seems more promising at the outset than Mr. Herzfeld ultimately intends to develop or protect.
Mr. Grammer drops out of the continuity for such a stretch that you forget hes in the unsavory mix. He plays an ambulance-chasing TV news impresario named Robert Hawkins, who begins with a professional stake in Mr. De Niros character, a media-wise and manipulative cop. A hunger for scoops and sensation persuades Hawkins to strike a disgraceful deal with the infamous emigrants, telecasting their most inflammatory crime tape. This outrage also backfires on the movie. Its one of those perverse shockers that has the unintended effect of deflating the plot, and probably audience morale in the bargain.
The ensemble buoyancy that worked for Mr. Herzfeld in the 1996 sleeper "Two Days in the Valley" goes down the drain in the lurid context of "15 Minutes," which alludes to Andy Warhols famous quip about the instant obsolescence of modern celebrity but fails to reflect its humorous aspects. If anything, youre a little puzzled to see performers as familiar as Avery Brooks, Kim Cattrall and curly-tressed Melina Kanakaredes in thankless secondary roles.
Theres one impressive wreck of a set: a burned-out, drenched apartment where the villains first victims are entombed. Its the setting that also permits the heroes to cross paths for the first time. Unfortunately, this gravely evocative scene of a crime does not portend an adequately humane and redemptive chronicle of crime-busting.
"15 Minutes" often seems determined to mug the audience. It ends up a self-inflicted disaster, begging to be put out its misery at least half an hour before the plug mercifully is pulled.

One out of four stars

TITLE: "15 Minutes"

RATING: R (Frequent profanity, graphic violence and sexual vulgarity)

CREDITS: Written and directed by John Herzfeld.

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes


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