15 Minutes of solid suspense

It’s easy to walk away from 15 Minutes, shake your head and think "those Americans," while smirking at your good fortune. But the fact is, the media game is played everywhere–in 15 Minutes it is taken to the extreme. What are the values society places on media? Is there anything we will not watch? In some ways we are all sadists, but the question is, where is the line drawn, and by whom?

The film starts by introducing two Russian visitors (Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov) as they go through customs and enter into the "American way," with the intent of gaining revenge upon a double-crossing friend. After being exposed to a good share of American television, the two Russians become determined to make themselves famous by videotaping their twisted crimes; they plan to manipulate the American justice system by pleading insane. Sounds just like the American dream.

On the tail of these two psychotics is the man himself, Robert De Niro. De Niro is accurately typecast as street-smart, hotshot New York detective Eddie Flemming, a local celebrity. De Niro, along with arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns) pursues a Seven-like investigation into the Russian’s gruesome crimes.

The suspense in 15 Minutes is solid, but interestingly the movie works well on a different level too. Kelsey Grammar eases into the role of a live television host notorious for getting interviews and confessions out of America’s worst criminals. There isn’t a thing Grammar’s character Robert Hawkins won’t do for a story. It isn’t long before he becomes intertwined in the very emotional and disturbing events involving the two Russians, and we find out just how low the media will go.

15 Minutes is as much a parody on the media as it is on the American justice system. Perhaps the best way of examining the truth is to over-exaggerate reality. The events are nothing we haven’t seen before, but are exaggerated enough that they won’t go unnoticed.

15 Minutes is certainly disturbing in its graphic display of violence, but it is the truthfulness of human nature that makes it difficult to watch. But, if the extremes weren’t taken, the point would not have protruded so clearly.

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