ninth symphony films - movie reviews

15 MINUTES (2001)

DIRECTOR  -  john herzfeld

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  suspense

LENGTH  -  120 minutes

RELEASED  -  1 march 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  15 minutes

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $42,000,000
15 minutes - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from 15 minutes at

buy the dvd from 15 minutes at

a homicide detective and a fire marshall must stop a pair of murderers who commit videotaped crimes to become media darlings.

on may 11, 2004, while filming a scene outside treasure island on the las vegas strip, a severe sandstorm forced production to shut down for the night.


picture from 15 minutes

picture from 15 minutes


two out of four possible stars

This film starts out at a lethargic pace and eventually accelerates into a faster second half. Or last quarter, rather. This film introduces its characters for 70 minutes and then gets around to the plot. Perhaps the overwhelming presence of Robert Deniro dictated that he prance around a bit, marking his territory with a few choice Deniro-like phrases before letting the audience get around to seeing the story. It's rare that a film can start out so convoluted and end so clear.

Aside from a somewhat pedantic message about the dangers of aligning crime with the media (or, more plainly, the entertainment industry), this film seeks to create a different type of film with unusual cinematography and camera angles. But because it gets so wrapped up for so long in introducing a group of people who aren't that interesting to begin with, the film really is just uninteresting for the first half or so. It's probably not the fault of the plot though. That's pretty solid. But this film fails to create intriguing characters whose fates are interesting.

In that last paragraph, the words "story" and "plot" were tossed around a bit. Just to clarify, the plot is what events take place in the film. And the story is about the characters and how they react in their environment. Both of these elements must work well together (and have a few lines of snippy dialogue thrown in) to become an interesting film.

15 minutes takes what might have been an interesting plot and stalls it for 50 minutes while it totters along, introducing the audience to a large amount of characters. Quite amazing considering that both Robert Deniro and Kelsey Grammer are in this film. But because the plot wasn't humming along, the story laid upon it really didn't mesh.

There might be a reason for this disjointed effect throughout the film. The same man, John Herzfeld wrote, directed, and produced this film. that's a lot of work, especially for a film that has such big time talent in it. The last film that he did triple duty on was for 2 Days in the Valley. It seems clear that John doesn't have the ability to wrap up a picture into a cohesive whole. This film lacks in some areas and has some positive elements in other places, but can't be considered a success overall.

For example, Edward Burns gives a credible performance opposite Deniro and Grammer, but even with a pretty talented cast, this movie just doesn't get up and go soon enough. It's like Herzfeld just decided to forget the tried and true three act formula for feature films (which, by the way has been around for a few thousand years), and turn it into something that has a bunch of events and just happens to end after two hours. Perhaps it was the lack of plot development in the beginning of the film, or the large cast, but the film was kind of like a mish-mash of parts that didn't match.

Now, everything in this film wasn't a complete waste. There seemed to be a great effort made by the cinematographer to create a film that was really something interesting for the eyes. By jumping back and forth from grainy video camera shots to the polished shots of 35mm film, the movie showed a lot of creativity.

Of course, this technique of messing with the physical look of what's on the screen is pretty popular right now. Just look at Erin Brockovich and Traffic. Although they're the product of one director, they both concentrate on bringing a different look to the screen. Adding in that documentary feeling to the story probably serves to make it more "real" to the audience. The cinematography was possibly the best part of the film.

And Oleg Taktarov, who played a doomed character, ironically named "Oleg," gave a performance that nearly outdid the rest of the more famous cast. His character was both sympathetic and malevolent at the same time. even with his accent, he was able to communicate his character's feelings to the audience. A very fine performance.

Also, his partner in crime, Karel Roden's character of "Emil" also shines as one of the bad guys. So really, this is a picture with its share of flaws and a few interesting parts to it that don't make it a total waste. Herzfeld should have just concentrated more on the story of his film, rather than the famous faces. Something that is ironic, considering the movie's about fame.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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