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15 Minutes: inifinifilm

As in his previous film 2 Days in the Valley, director John Herzfeld in 15 Minutes has too many stories to tell, but also as in previous TV movies, about the Preppie Murder Case and the Long Island Lolita, his sensibility is not all that far in spirit from the tabloid journalism rather obviously attacked in this effort. Borrowing an overused quip credited to Andy Warhol for his title, Herzfeld wants to show how television and its viewers conspire to degrade our moral standards. If the premise is simple, the plot is rather complicated. Emil (Karel Roden), a Czech criminal and Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), his Russian muscle, arrive in America to settle a score. They end up on a murder spree, with Oleg recording their exploits on a digital video camera. In pursuit are high-profile cop Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) and fire marshal Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns). Various chases ensue, and then when Emil finally confronts Eddie, he reveals his grand scheme: He is going to commit mayhem and get away with it by pleading insanity, then write his memoirs and make a million dollars. Meanwhile, the duo plan to sell Oleg's video log of their antics to tabloid television, represented by Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer), the on-air host and reporter for a show called Top Story. The film builds to a confrontation in front of the Statue of Liberty, where the media, the monsters created therein, and the law all face off against each other. A cross between Billy Wilder's The Big Carnival and Die Hard 3, 15 Minutes tries to leaven its violent narrative with the uplifting patina of social comment. But as well as seeming a little out of date, Herzfeld's point isn't clear. What is he for, exactly? The elimination of tabloid journalism? The revision of the Constitution? One wishes that Herzfeld had been a more unpredictable in his thinking, or that his wit were a better sharpened tool that would have raised his film to the biting level of its Belgian progenitor, Man Bites Dog. Still, Herzfeld, the veteran of many a film, handles the pacing and framing of his story with deft urgency. In this second release after Thirteen Days, the infinifilm method of sorting information continues to prove itself to be a useful tool. New Line's DVD offers a flawless anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) of director of photography Jean Yves Escoffier's images. Audio comes in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Extras are plentiful. An audio commentary track from director Herzfeld is informative and lively, and ranges from insights about production design and camera movement to interesting trivia (Edward Burns's father was a New York cop assigned to the public information office and worked closely with tabloid shows). There are two brief documentaries, "15 Minutes of True Tabloid Stars," which goes over the same ground that other television documentaries on tabloid television have done, and "Does Crime Pay?" which addresses some of the facts and moral issues in the film. The Fact Track, an optional subtitle trivia track, feels like it strains to come up with interesting details, unlike the same feature on Thirteen Days, and all too often as soon as you read one of the subtitles, the commentary track reiterates it. There are a handful of deleted scenes with director's commentary, and the full cuts of "Oleg's Videos," the footage actually shot by actor Oleg Taktarov during two of his scenes. There's also the "Fame" music video, cast and crew credits, and DVD-ROM features such as script-to-screen and the original website. An essay on the film by director Herzfeld is included. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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