15 Minutes
***.3 GM
Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Melina Kanakaredes, Karel Roden, Oleg Taktarov

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There's something about Edward Burns that's just cool. Maybe seeing him as a regular kinda schmoe in "She's The One" and "The Brothers McMullen" has made me want to root for the guy whenever I see him, no matter what kinda jerk he's playing. Early on in this film about the evils of the media and the victim society, when he declares he 'doesn't watch TV,' we know from the get-go that he's going to get to be the sanctimonious holier-than-thou kinda guy, and that made the film more fun for me.

Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), a Russian obsessed with movies, and Emil (Karel Roden), a Czech with a penchant for killing, come to America to collect money from a former partner in crime. When it ain't there, Oleg, who's filmed everything with a stolen camera, also films the murder of the guy who spent all Emil's dinero. Then De Niro's Eddie Flemming, NYPD celebrity, winds up on the case after they start a fire to torch all the evidence... which also brings Fire Marshall Jordy Warsaw (Burns) to the scene. Thankfully for us, a scene where Jordy gets mugged by David Alan Grier in a bit part (which feels like a role he would have parodied on "In Living Color") lets us know that Ed Burns may be a fireman, but he's an 'arson investigator,' so he 'does what cops do,' handily explaining why he has a gun and handcuffs. So they're on the trail of Oleg and Emil, who have holed up and watched enough crap-ass talk shows to realize that America is choking to death on its own bullshit and they devise a plan to exploit that - to film their murders and claim insanity because of it, do no real jail time and get rich from the book and movie deals - a plan soon to be helped along by Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer), the tabloid anchorman that follows Eddie around on busts.

While it does tend to feel preachy sometimes, it is an interesting concept executed decently by good performances all around, and even a surprise or two thrown in. Kelsey Grammer is so firmly entrenched in his role as Frasier Crane that he was wisely given a lot of cussing and a few more assholey traits to try and break the perception of that, but it's still a damn near impossible task to accomplish completely. The fact that he works for a 'tabloid' show tends to dilute the message of the film, since they could just as easily be going after the mainstream media for ridiculous sensationalism and over-analysis that leads to nobody ever taking responsibility for their actions. And, of course, you just KNOW that the sleazy reporter is going to get jacked in the jaw by somebody out of righteous indignation at some point. That happens to every sleazy reporter in every movie.

Melina Kanakaredes is a fabulously attractive woman with a fun name to say and I was happy to have the opportunity to look at her, but her addition into the film as Eddie Flemming's fiancee-to-be seems a little tacked on, since its main purpose is to provide a little head feint away from who the next murder victim is going to be. She's also the representative of the mainstream media, being a 'real' news reporter, which further softens the bite of the film by showing her as being aware and disapproving of the bullshit going on around her. Then there's Avery Brooks as Eddie's partner and friend, who seems to have finally mastered the ability to naturally deliver his dialog, but it's probably only because he had maybe ten total lines to concentrate on and figure out how to perfect.

Burns, though, does make a great anchor to move through the film with, as a guy who doesn't even understand the stupid celebrity culture that's sprung up around him and just wants to do his job, save lives and help people. The scene when Jordy and Daphne, the potential witness to the first crime, are trapped in her apartment after a firebomb sets her place ablaze is particularly well done. Oleg and Emil are really yucky villains that fall into the old-but-new tradition of actually making bad guys you root AGAINST, as opposed to making them charismatic and charming. There's nothing affable about these guys, and you can't wait for Burns and De Niro to get a hold of 'em and toss 'em into lockdown.

Overall, it's an entertaining film with significant but not overbearing flaws, and a lot of good actors making the best of what they've got. Check it out.

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