"15 Minutes" has nothing new to say about the power of the media and our intoxication with lurid and dehumanizing "reality TV."
But it hammers home its points in an entertaining way, using a tightly written script, fascinating characters and an all-star cast to explore the natural outcome of Andy Warhol's famous comment about fame.
Robert De Niro plays Eddie Flemming, a celebrity Manhattan homicide detective who's pursuing a couple of sociopaths, recent arrivals from Eastern Europe with a zany plan to murder their way into America's hearts and pocketbooks.
He's joined in the investigation by fire inspector Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns).
Weaned on American films and television programs, Oleg (Oleg Taktarov) and Emil (Karel Roden) arrive in his country with the idea that murder and mayhem will bring them riches and fame.
With video camera in hand, they commit a series of grizzly murders, recording their deeds in keeping with the assumption that there's a ready market for their production among America's tabloid television audience. And they are right.
TV superstar Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer) steps forward to pay a million bucks for the snuff film, which documents the pair's numerous crimes, including the murder of one of the film's principal characters.
"If it bleeds, it leads," Hawkins reminds his producer, in keeping with the film's hit-the-audience-over-the-head approach to pushing its social commentary.
The plot zips through a sequence of violent crimes and includes a slick fire-and-explosion sequence that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Directed by John Herzfeld, "15 Minutes" takes a heavy handed view of its purposes -- even a chimpanzee could get the point -- but thanks to its commitment to character development avoids falling into the formulaic trap that snares most action flicks.
"15 Minutes" is worth a closer look.
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