Less Than Arresting, but Good Cops Are Hard to Find

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Less Than Arresting, but Good Cops Are Hard to Find

Cop movies are a mainstay in film. After the original Beverly Hills Cop came out in 1984, a lot of directors have since tried to copy its success by recycling the comedy/action formula over and over again. While "15 Minutes" may be guilty of not being original in some aspects, for the most part it manages to go beyond the typical formulaic cop film. The movie doesn't go overboard with too much comedy or violence, but rather skillfully combines several elements into a very watchable thriller.

Robert De Niro plays New York homicide detective Eddie Flemming. Eddie is something of a local hero to the neighborhood and a god-send to the media. He always has a statement to give hungry news reporters, including his friend Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer), the host of a TV tabloid show, "Top Story."

When a fire is used to cover up a grisly murder Eddie finds himself working with Jordy Warsaw (Ed Burns), a crime-fighter who despises Eddie's usage of the media to further his career. Eddie and Jordy's investigation leads them to two Eastern European suspects; the wide-eyed and childlike Oleg (Oleg Taktarov) and his wiry psychopath partner Emil (Karel Roden).

Oleg is fascinated by the technology of America and uses a camcorder he steals upon arrival in New York to document Emil's murders. To Emil this seems like a dangerous thing to do - until he discovers the maxim "violence sells."

The two decide to earn a bundle of money by selling their violent videos to the media. They also hope that by killing someone famous they can gain "15 minutes of fame," referring to the quote by Andy Warhol that in the future everyone will be famous for at least 15 minutes.

Aside from all the catchy rapport between De Niro and Burns, "15 Minutes" does have some loose ends. The idea of an old veteran and eager rookie teaming up has been used countless times before. Not to mention, you never really understand what Jordy's job title or position is until the last 15 minutes of the movie. Until that point, it's anybody's guess as to whether he's a cop, investigator or gun-toting fireman.

De Niro strikes you as more of a wise-guy than cop, basically playing the same tough guy with a heart of gold from his previous "Flawless." Through the tender, almost shy wooing of his girlfriend he lends the character a likable soft side as well. His dialogue matches the dual personality of his character and he wins audiences over through rough but sweet lines to his partner: "You remind me of a puppy I used to have. He kept peeing on the carpet, but I still kept him around."

Ed Burns first gained popularity as an innovative independent filmmaker some years ago, with his low-budget breakthroughs "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's the One." Through this movie he proves that he has a knack for acting as well and gets by with a solid portrayal of Jordy. The film is also blessed with excellent supporting roles by Avery Brooks ("Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") and Kelsey Grammer ("Cheers" and "Frasier").

The two Eastern European thugs Oleg and Emil are more real and central to this film than any of the characters combined, but Herzfeld makes them seem less than authentic by placing them in unrealistic scenes. The movie screams implausibility when the two finally sell the rights to the movie and celebrate by watching their own incriminating tapes on TV while they wait to be arrested in a fancy restaurant.

Director Herzfeld has an uncanny way of portraying wide-spread social dilemmas. In this case, he attempts to illustrate America's lust for violence in the wake of reality TV programs like the ever-popular "Cops." It might be going a bit far though to consider this movie a social commentary. Through its jarring switching of scenes the way the story is told resembles something more along the lines of "Natural Born Killers." All in all, good acting combined with a couple twists, make this movie an interesting addition to the "cops" film archives.

by Joseph Kim

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