*½/**** Image A Sound A Extras A-
starring Robert De Niro, Edward Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Avery Brooks
written and directed by John Herzfeld
by Walter Chaw There's a thing that happens about an hour into John Herzfeld's 15 Minutes that is as bald and shameless a foreshadowing device as any in the tired pantheon of movie-groaners. It's as bad as telling someone that you'll marry them just as soon as you get back from this trip to Africa; as bad as showing the guys a picture of your corn-fed sweetie right before you charge that machine gun embankment. It is a moment of stunning conventionality in the middle of a film that is otherwise engaging and, for a moment or two, even shocking and provocative. 15 Minutes is defined by this scene in a great many ways: It's a Hollywood film struggling with a controversial topic that finds a comfort zone in a script that tries to soften some images by obfuscation and others by a timidity that ultimately undermines its subject. The last time a big-budget picture tried to tackle a media culture involved in exploitation of the darkest crannies of the human heart was Joel Schumacher's reprehensible and simpering 8MM. Sharing that film's ignominious demise at the box office, it can be no real surprise that 15 Minutes is almost as repugnantly apple-polishing an experience.