15 Minutes John Herzfeld
Published Mar 01, 2001When Andy Warhol sagely commented on the length and nature of "everyone's" famous destiny, it wasn't a bequest - it was social commentary, he wasn't doling out portions. But it has become an assumption - if you haven't had them yet, your preordained 15 minutes are still coming to you. That's how recent Eastern European immigrants Emil and Oleg (excellent newcomers Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov) feel anyway - the American dream is their due, they simply arrive on its shores to collect. Or at least to collect from a former colleague holding their share of a recent heist; when he fails to cough up the dough, Emil starts cracking skulls, while Oleg captures it all on digital video; it's the start of his new life as Frank Capra. Before Jimbo Jones can say: "Videotaping this crime spree is the best idea I ever had," the duo is armed with plenty of incriminating footage of itself.
Enter one famous cop, Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) and an ambitious, hot-headed arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns), who begin their pursuit of the murderous immigrants. Viewers are now asked to please gaze blankly at the screen and think about the evils of media manipulation, not about the fact that arson investigator Burns might have other job obligations and cannot run away to play yes man to De Niro. Glittery lights and "stylish" editing will be offered to distract you from that plot hole someone is currently driving a camera truck through. TV mainstay Kelsey Grammar as a foul-mouthed tabloid anchor (who also chases down all his own stories, ha!) is a reasonable distraction from this story's inconsistencies, as is De Niro's nervous Nelly routine over proposing to his girlfriend, another TV personality playing itself, embodied by Melina Kanakaredes. While we're muttering our concern over Grammar's big giant head booming out over Times Square, director John Herzfeld ("2 Days In the Valley") can get his Action Jackson ducks in a row in preparation for the film's crucial third act.
Having escaped capture (even from the arson squad!), Emil and Oleg finally consume enough Hollywood movies to piece together their legal strategy: release the tapes of their criminal stupidity, claim temporary insanity to avoid prison and escape the pesky "Son of Sam" laws that prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes. This opens the floodgates to the riches of movie and book offers, while they convince the loony bin they're not actually crazy and are released, but can't be retried for the same crime due to double jeopardy. (And Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman should make an appearance at some point.) Good plan, especially since Kelsey Grammar's willing to pay millions for the exclusive broadcast rights (the complete lack of legal consequence here is stunning, not to mention a Planet Hollywood-style dinner where the criminal pair chow down in a crowd gathered to watch their TV debut).
Despite the fact that vilifying the media went out with "Natural Born Killers" and cheap knockoffs like "S.F.W.," Herzfeld forges ahead, stirring this morass into a brown soup of moral ambiguity (De Niro's cop has benefited at least as much from media overexposure, see, yet where would we be without the news to keep us all honest), the elements crash towards their "Film @ 11" conclusions, amidst a siren sound effect and a sonorous voiceover while panning the cityscape. We're all part of this corrupt system, you see, voyeurs and celebrity criminals. Bad cops, good TV, bad movies. Whatcha gonna do?