Volume 94, Issue 91

Wednesday, March 14, 2001


Students' films get a showcase

Film sends mixed message

TVO documnetary attempts to find Asian man

Buried Treasure

Film sends mixed message

Photo By Phillip V. Caruso
YOU POINTIN' AT ME?! Everyone's favourite tough guy, Robert De Niro, stars in the action thriller that feels much longer than it would have you believe, 15 Minutes.

15 Minutes
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer
Directed By: John Herzfeld

By Andrea Chiu
Gazette Staff

With an onslaught of youth violence in past weeks, the question of responsibility has once again flooded the mass media. Fingers often point to controversial music lyrics, troubled North American families and other pressures of today's society.

In 15 Minutes, writer-director John Herzfeld takes a critical look at how the media's ability to create fame can perpetuate violence and crime on its own.

The film begins with two Eastern European men, Emil and Oleg, who are visiting America for the first time. Emil's main concern is to see old friends who owe him money, while Oleg is fascinated with American movies. As soon as they arrive in New York, the men steal a video camera, commit a horrendously violent double murder and set fire to the victims' apartment.

The homicide and arson brings together police officer Eddie Flemming (Robert DeNiro) and a young Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns.) The case allows Flemming to take Warsaw under his wing as they attempt to track down Emil and Oleg, who end up going on a mad rampage through the city, with their camera in hand to capture all the action.

Things get personal and out of control when the criminals devise a plan to cheat the law and earn their own 15 minutes of fame by taking advantage of the blood thirsty media.

Although the cast is composed of solid actors, Herzfeld opted for more action than substantial character development. The role of officer Flemming is not a stretch for DeNiro, as he's played similar roles in the past. Fortunately, DeNiro manages to slip in some humourous moments and dimensionality in his scenes with Melina Kanakaredes, who plays his reporter-girlfriend, Nicolette Karas.

Burns, on the other hand, is best known for his small budget film, The Brothers McMullen. Since that film's popular debut in 1995, he has earned heartthrob status. Despite those pretty boy looks, Burns fails to create much presence in 15 Minutes as the kindhearted fire marshall.

The supporting cast, including Frasier's Kelsey Grammer and Providence's Kanakaredes, is considerably strong. Grammer is solid as the selfish tabloid news anchor Robert Hawkins, yet he seems to struggle with his transition to the big screen. Kanakaredes is charming as Nicolette, but unfortunately her role is too small for anyone to take much notice.

Perhaps the nicest surprise is the North American debut of European actors Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov. Playing the role of evil Emil, Roden is convincingly psychotic, while Taktarov is subtly effective and entertaining as his cameraman sidekick.

The use of camcorder footage is a positive addition to action movies' often monotonous cinematography, but at times the director almost goes overboard with too many shaky shots that come close to The Blair Witch Project on the motion sickness scale.

Adding to the feeling of nausea is the ridiculous amount of violence in 15 Minutes. It's a script with some original ideas, but at the same time, it lacks the interesting elements of surprise which set good action movies apart from the large pool of mediocre ones.

Moreover, being a film that criticizes media for sensationalizing violent crime, 15 Minutes ironically becomes a victim of itself by being too aggressive and thereby, ineffective.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000