15 minutes, two hours, what's the difference?
Often films do all they can to get your attention. They want to impress you with all the aspects that the great films of the past had - great characters, amazing twists of plot, beautifully constructed shots, even false ending after false ending. The downside of this approach is twofold - often times, it's easy as hell to tell that you're supposed to be impressed, and also with so much attention on the elements of a film, you tend to lose the film as a whole - its cohesiveness. This is why the smaller films often shine when placed next to blockbusters.
15 minutes does not fall into that trap. What we have is an extensive exploration of one idea without regard to little vanities like one liners, character sympathies, and the like.
What is that one idea? That the American society has made it all too easy for people to blame anything but the perpetrator for the bad things that happen in the world. 15 Minutes takes on the idea from several angles, most notably the enthusiasm the press has in sensationalizing their stories.
Two eastern european men enter New York to collect on a debt owed them, but find the money already spent. After killing their old partner and his wife, they begin a spree of killing in pursuit of the only witness. The main difference between this any other New York movie is that one of these men has "picked up" a video camera and is recording their violent antics for posterity.
An arson investigator (Edward Burns) and a media-savvy cop (Robert DeNiro) get on the trail of these men. The cop has connections to a tabloid show anchor (Kelsey Grammer) and his girlfriend is a reporter (Melina Kanakaredes). And there's a slew of other folks I could go into, but they are there largely for atmostphere. To a degree, the main characters are there for atmosphere as well. We have character, but little character development, which helps to let the ideas of the film stand out. Despite the lack of development, the main characters are fleshed out and behave in interesting ways - though not so far so they take over the film.
No, it's not a perfect film. We spend some time in areas that don't support the themes well. The perspective on the media side is not well explored at all, and there could have been more exploration of ideas in general. The film is relatively well defined though, and meets its definition squarely.
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