|Directed by||John Herzfeld|
|Written by||John Herzfeld|
|Edited by||Steven Cohen|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$56.4 million|
15 Minutes is a 2001 crime action thriller film directed by John Herzfeld and starring Robert De Niro and Edward Burns. Its story revolves around a homicide detective (De Niro) and a fire marshal (Burns) who join forces to apprehend a pair of Eastern European murderers (Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov) videotaping their crimes in order to become rich and famous. The title is a reference to the Andy Warhol quotation, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."
Ex-convicts Emil Slovak (Karel Roden) and Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov) arrive in the United States to claim their part of a bank heist in eastern Europe. Oleg steals a video camera from an electronics store. At the rundown apartment of their old partner, they are denied their share of the spoils, so Emil fatally stabs the partner and his wife as Oleg tapes it with the camera. Czech immigrant Daphne Handlova (Vera Farmiga) witnesses the murders from the bathroom, then escapes before Emil and Oleg can kill her as well. To hide the crime, Emil burns down the apartment.
Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns) is a New York City arson investigator assigned to the case. Also at the scene is Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro), is a high-profile detective who is followed by his girlfriend Nicolette Karas (Melina Kanakaredes), a reporter from the tabloid TV show Top Story. Flemming and Warsaw agree to work the case together. While checking out the crowd, Warsaw spots Daphne trying to get his attention, but she disappears. Meanwhile, Emil calls an escort service and asks for a "Czech girl." Oleg tapes Emil as he kills the escort (Noelle Evans) and learns the address of the escort service. Oleg continually films everything, claiming he wants to be the next Frank Capra.
Flemming and Warsaw investigate this murder and visit the escort service. The madam, Rose Hearn (Charlize Theron), tells them that the girl Warsaw described doesn't work for her but rather a hairdresser. She mentions a couple of other guys having just asked her the same questions. Flemming and Warsaw arrive at the hair salon just after Emil and Oleg have warned Daphne to keep quiet. Flemming notices Oleg filming them from across the street. In the ensuing foot chase, Flemming's regular partner Leon Jackson (Avery Brooks) is hit with a glass bottle and his wallet and gun are stolen. Emil finds a card with Flemming's name and address. He becomes jealous of Flemming's celebrity status and is convinced that anyone in America can get away with anything.
On the night Flemming plans to propose to his girlfriend Nicolette Karas (Melina Kanakaredes), Oleg and Emil sneak into his house and bind Flemming to a chair. While Oleg is recording, Emil explains that he plans to kill Flemming and sell the tape to Top Story. After getting himself committed to an insane asylum, Emil will declare that he is actually sane. Since he can't be tried again, he will get off, collecting royalties from books and movies based on his crimes. Flemming attacks them with his chair (while still taped to it), but Emil gets the upper-hand and stabs him in the chest, mortally wounding him. Emil then suffocates and kills Flemming with a pillow.
The entire city is in mourning. Emil sells the tape of Flemming's murder to Top Story anchor Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer) in exchange for $1 million, outraging Warsaw and the entire police force. Emil and Oleg watch the tape's broadcast on Top Story inside a Planet Hollywood; customers realize that Emil and Oleg are sitting with them and panic. Police arrive and arrest Emil, while Oleg escapes. Warsaw takes Emil to an abandoned warehouse to kill him, but other police arrive just in time and take Emil into custody. Everything goes as planned for Emil, now a celebrity who is pleading insanity. His lawyer agrees to work for 30% of the royalties Emil will receive for his story. Meanwhile, in hiding, Oleg becomes jealous of the notoriety that Emil is receiving.
While the lawyer is leading Emil away in court, Warsaw provokes an argument, with the Top Story crew recording the whole thing. Oleg quietly approaches Hawkins and hands him the tape of Emil explaining his plan to Flemming, proving he was sane the whole time. Hawkins shouts out to Emil about the evidence in his possession. Emil grabs a policeman's gun, shoots Oleg and grabs Nicolette, threatening to shoot her. Against orders, Warsaw shoots Emil a dozen times in the chest to avenge Flemming's murder. Hawkins rushes to Oleg's side as he dies. He attempts to get a comment from Warsaw, who punches him and walks away as the police all smile with approval.
The film was shot on location in New York City and Los Angeles from May to July 1999. It was originally slated to be released by New Line Cinema in the spring of 2000, with theatrical trailers appearing in late 1999. For reasons unknown, the film was pulled from the spring 2000 schedule and then delayed until the following year, on March 9, 2001.
The film grossed $24,403,552 domestically in the United States and Canada. It made a further $31,956,428 internationally, for a worldwide total of $56,359,980 against a production budget of $42 million.
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 32% based on reviews from 125 critics, with an average rating of 4.42/10. The site's consensus reads, "As critical as it is about sensationalism in the media, 15 Minutes itself indulges in lurid violence, and its satire is too heavy-handed to be effective." It currently holds a 34 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, based on 32 critical reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave it three out of four stars, calling it "a cynical, savage satire about violence, the media and depravity." Ebert felt "It doesn't have the polish of "Natural Born Killers" or the wit of "Wag the Dog," but it's a real movie, rough edges and all, and not another link from the sausage factory."
On the negative side, Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post wrote:
For a while, as long as it's cops vs. scum, "15 Minutes" bangs along pretty spectacularly. The contrived script gets Brooks out of the picture fast, so that De Niro and Burns can have a nice male bonding moment or two, if that's the sort of thing that brings tears to your eyes. ... But like oh-so-many movies in today's film culture, where nobody ever met a story he could tell, this one becomes so jammed up with subplots it seems to run out of room, space and time. ... it ruins the movie, leaving it without its engine, without its rooting interest, without, really, much of anything going for it.
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated: "At the movies, we’re now bamboozled into expecting not drama but sensation, and so it’s no surprise that the plot of a movie like 15 Minutes is less an end in itself than an excuse, a jumping-off point for showy, contrived, borderline-exploitation sequences that fail to tie together because they’re not really there to do anything but sell themselves as money-shot thrills. ... 15 Minutes is a glum and sadistic mess."