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IN SHORT: Two good movies for the price of one. [Rated R for some strong violence, language, and some sexuality. ]
...and even before we get to the point where we tell you that 15 Minutes is something you should see, we proudly point out that we've got CrankyCritic® StarTalk with both Robert De Niro and Kelsey Grammer.
A Czech and a Russian come to New York. It sounds like the start of a joke but it's the start of 15 Minutes, which is two movies combined into one big fairly enjoyable flick. The pair have come to collect their share of the loot from a bank heist but discover that their ex-partner in crime has adopted life as a plumber... an American plumber... and has spent all the cash on gold jewelry. The pair would be the comedic relief in any movie, except that the Russian, Emil Slovak (Karel Roden), has one hell of a temper and a propensity to grab things that are very sharp and very deadly. The Czech, Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov), fancies himself the next Frank Capra and, with a stolen video camera, documents every minute of their journey -- every grab, stab, scream, spurt, and so on and so forth. To cover the murder, or Tarantino wannabees set fire to the apartment of the victims, which brings arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Ed Burns) onto the scene. He arrives to discover homicide detective Eddie Flemming(Robert De Niro) already on site and already feeding lines to the yammering media hordes. From here on in, 15 Minutes delivers a couple of neat twists on the old distrusting buddy routine format.
There's a witness to the murders, Daphne Handlova (Vera Farmiga) an illegal who is very easy on the eyes. Burns takes notice. De Niro doesn't, as he's carrying a ring in his pocket and working on the proper words to propose to his television news reporter girlfriend. One investigation leads to another murder and the pair work together and separetely to bring the murdering immigrants down. How that becomes two movies is just one of the plot twists in a film which savagely takes apart the media-zation of all aspects of what passes for our civilization.
Movie number one features homocide detective DeNiro, darling of the newspapers and tabloid television news shows crossing the well defined borders between the New York City police and fire departments, to have a look see at a fire scene in which two people died. This doesn't sit well with the NYFD arson investigator three seconds on the scene and he's got enough evidence to show that the fire was not an accident, as assumed, and that the couple locked in embrace of a sexual kind were more than likely dead before everything went up in smoke.
The media, howling jackals that we all are, are waiting for the gory details on the street. De Niro takes the credit for leading the investigation, though he doesn't tell WB11 reporter Nicolette Karas (Melina Kanakaredes) anything newsworthy. Just useless sound bites about "looking into it" and "too soon to speculate". De Niro is a pro. And Burn's boss, the Fire Chief, is pissed off that his department isn't gettin the proper credit it deserves for this one. That's a good start for 15 Minutes, which stomps the fine line between satire and commentary and manages to make a couple of statements about devotion to job versus the old "get a life"jab.
Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer), teevee reporter, just as eager to build stars as he is to take 'em down is a media power in his own right, as star of Top Story, a self-righteous spin blasting tabloid television "news" show. Top Story's new producer, Cassandra (Kim Cattrell) is determined to bring some hard news to the show, but Hawkins knows that blood and guts and rumor and ready made icons bring in the ratings. His job is to make and break those mini-stars, and stomp on any producer who gets in his way. Hawkins has built Eddie Flemming into a star, and Flemming has learned how to master the media. As 15 Minutes unspools, we see the tools of the trade passed from the veteran to the new kid, who couldn't care less about the fame.
But what holds the two sections of the movie together are the actions of our villains. Fully aware of how the media treats big, bloody events -- "we"make movies and TV mini-series -- the pair concoct a way to not only document their crimes (that's where the stolen vid comes in) but also to give them a legal way to avoid jail time and legislative restrictions on selling "their" story.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to 15 Minutes, he would have paid...
Usually the "two movies in one"tag is a sure sign that a film is just too damned long. Honestly, we were starting to get the impulse to look at our watch when the shift happens. The second flick carries enough power to keep everything more than interesting.
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