15 MINUTES takes on topics that are on everyone’s mind as criminal cases become ratings-winners, and “reality-based” television shows continue to proliferate—is there a different justice reserved for those with a good PR person? And how much is really too much?
Eddie Flemming (DeNiro) is a NY homicide detective who uses the media to his advantage, even allowing TV tabloid news reporter Robert Hawkins (Grammer) to accompany him on busts. Jordy Warsaw (Burns) is a NY Fire Dept arson investigator who views the media as a nuisance at best. The two end up working together to solve a series of murders where fires are set to cover up the crimes, with Flemming playing master to Burns’ grasshopper.
Emil and Oleg (Roden and Taktarov) are the Eastern European criminals responsible for these crimes. Newly arrived in America, they watch talk shows and tabloid news shows where sobbing child molesters win forgiveness by confessing in front of the cameras, and murderers win their freedom by explaining why everyone but themselves are to blame for their crimes. As Emil exclaims in wonder, “I love America! No one is responsible for what they do!” With this crash course in how to manipulate the system, they set out to document their exploits with a stolen video camera and then make millions from the book and movie deals if they get caught.
This movie is by no means subtle with its messages. In fact we are fairly battered about the head with them.
But the point comes across. We watch Jordy being told by his superior that he’s going to be suspended because of the perception of wrongdoing created by media accusations, even if he is innocent. And we watch Hawkins make a deal with the as-yet-uncaptured Emil and Oleg in order to get an exclusive, justifying it as his duty as a journalist to bring the story to the public. And we wonder again whether justice needs a new blindfold.
DeNiro gives a one of his more gentle and nuanced performances in this film, playing tough-as-nails cop, wise-cracking mentor, and head-over-heels boyfriend all rolled into one. Burns manages to hold his own despite only having a cookie-cutter part to play. Inevitably, newcomers Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov steal the show with the brutality and cunning of their characters. Which underscores another point to consider—we may complain about the trashy and exploitive shows the media presents us, but how many of us actually walk out of the theater or change the channel, and how many of us remain watching in disbelief and fascination…