15 Minutes

15 Minutes is a 2001 German-American crime action thriller film directed by John Herzfeld and starring Robert De Niro and Edward Burns. Its story revolves around a homicide detective (De Niro) and a fire marshal (Burns) who join forces to apprehend a pair of Eastern European murderers (Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov) videotaping their crimes in order to become rich and famous. The title is a reference to the Andy Warhol quotation, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."

15 Minutes
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Herzfeld
Produced by
Written byJohn Herzfeld
Music by
CinematographyJean-Yves Escoffier
Edited bySteven Cohen
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • March 9, 2001 (2001-03-09)
Running time
120 minutes
Budget$42 million[3]
Box office$56.4 million[4]


Ex-convicts Emil Slovak (Karel Roden) and Oleg Razgul (Oleg Taktarov) arrive in the United States to claim their part of a bank heist in Russia (or in the Czech Republic). Oleg steals a video camera from a Make-Your-Own-Movie establishment. At the rundown apartment of their old partner, they are denied their share, so Emil fatally stabs him and his wife as Oleg tapes it with the camera. Czech immigrant Daphne Handlova (Vera Farmiga) witnesses the murders from the bathroom, then escapes before they can kill her as well. To hide the crime, Emil burns down the apartment.

Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns) is an arson investigator assigned to the case. Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) is a flamboyant New York City detective who is also called to the scene. Flemming is such a high-profile celebrity that he is followed around by a reporter from a tabloid TV show, Top Story, hosted by the arrogant Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer). Everywhere he goes, citizens cheer him on. Flemming and Warsaw agree to work the case together. While checking out the crowd, Warsaw spots Daphne trying to get his attention, but she disappears.

Emil calls an escort service and asks for a "Czech girl." One calling herself Honey (Noelle Evans) arrives, whom he kills but not before getting the address of the escort service. Oleg tapes the murder. He continually films everything, claiming he wants to be the next Frank Capra.

Flemming and Warsaw investigate her murder, visiting the escort service. Rose Hearn (Charlize Theron), who runs it, tells them that the girl Warsaw described doesn't work for her but rather a hairdresser. She mentions a couple of other guys having just asked her the same questions. Flemming and Warsaw arrive at the hair salon just after Emil and Oleg have warned Daphne to keep quiet. Flemming notices someone filming them from across the street. A foot chase begins, Flemming's regular partner Leon Jackson (Avery Brooks) being hit with a glass bottle and his wallet stolen. Emil finds a card with Flemming's name and address. He is jealous of Flemming's celebrity status and is convinced that anyone in America can get away with anything.

On the night Flemming is to propose to his girlfriend Nicolette Karas (Melina Kanakaredes), Oleg and Emil sneak into his house and bind Flemming to a chair. While Oleg is recording, Emil explains his plan to Flemming: He will kill him and sell the tape to Top Story. After being committed to an insane asylum, he will declare that he is actually sane. Since he can't be tried again, he will get off, collecting royalties from his books and movies. Fleming attacks them with his chair (while still taped to it), but Emil gets the upper-hand and stabs him in the chest, mortally wounding him. Emil then suffocates and kills Flemming with a pillow.

The entire city is in mourning. Emil calls Hawkins to offer a tape of the killing that he is willing to sell to Top Story. Hawkins pays him $1 million for it. Warsaw and the entire police force are furious, unable to believe that the TV show would air it, especially since Hawkins's main reporter is Nicolette.

Emil and Oleg sit in a Planet Hollywood to watch the show in public. Halfway through the broadcast, customers realize that Emil and Oleg are right there with them and panic. Police arrive and arrest Emil, while Oleg escapes. Instead of delivering his suspect to the police station, Warsaw takes Emil to an abandoned warehouse to kill him. Other police arrive just in time and take Emil into custody. Everything goes as planned for Emil, now a celebrity who is pleading insanity. His lawyer agrees to work for 30% of the royalties Emil will receive for his story. Meanwhile, in hiding, Oleg becomes jealous of the notoriety that Emil is receiving.

While the lawyer is leading Emil away, surrounded by the media, Warsaw provokes an argument, with the Top Story crew recording the whole thing. Oleg quietly approaches Hawkins and hands him the tape of Emil explaining his plan to Flemming, proving he was sane the whole time. Hawkins shouts out to Emil about the evidence in his possession. Emil grabs a policeman's gun, shoots Oleg and grabs Nicolette, who is covering the story, threatening to shoot her. Against orders, Warsaw shoots Emil a dozen times in the chest to avenge Flemming's murder.

An officer observes that Oleg is still alive. Hawkins rushes to his side, where Oleg says a final few words about the movie that is still being taped, just before he dies. Hawkins attempts to get a comment from Warsaw, who punches him and walks away as the police all smile with approval.



The film was shot on location in New York City and Los Angeles from May to July 1999. It was originally slated to be released by New Line Cinema in the spring of 2000, with theatrical trailers appearing in late 1999. For reasons unknown, the film was pulled from the spring 2000 schedule and then delayed until the following year, on March 9, 2001.


Box office

The film grossed $24,403,552 domestically in the United States and Canada. It made a further $31,956,428 internationally, for a worldwide total of $56,359,980 against a production budget of $42 million.[4]

Critical response

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 32% based on reviews from 125 critics, with an average rating of 4.42/10. The site's consensus reads, "As critical as it is about sensationalism in the media, 15 Minutes itself indulges in lurid violence, and its satire is too heavy-handed to be effective."[5] It currently holds a 34 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, based on 32 critical reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[6]

Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave it three out of four stars, calling it "a cynical, savage satire about violence, the media and depravity." Ebert felt "It doesn't have the polish of "Natural Born Killers" or the wit of "Wag the Dog," but it's a real movie, rough edges and all, and not another link from the sausage factory."[7]

On the negative side, Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post wrote:

For a while, as long as it's cops vs. scum, "15 Minutes" bangs along pretty spectacularly. The contrived script gets Brooks out of the picture fast, so that De Niro and Burns can have a nice male bonding moment or two, if that's the sort of thing that brings tears to your eyes. ... But like oh-so-many movies in today's film culture, where nobody ever met a story he could tell, this one becomes so jammed up with subplots it seems to run out of room, space and time. ... it ruins the movie, leaving it without its engine, without its rooting interest, without, really, much of anything going for it.[8]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated: "At the movies, we’re now bamboozled into expecting not drama but sensation, and so it’s no surprise that the plot of a movie like 15 Minutes is less an end in itself than an excuse, a jumping-off point for showy, contrived, borderline-exploitation sequences that fail to tie together because they’re not really there to do anything but sell themselves as money-shot thrills. ... 15 Minutes is a glum and sadistic mess."[9]


  1. "15 MINUTES (2001): A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress". Washington, DC: Library of Congress Manuscript Division. Retrieved October 27, 2015.  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. "15 Minutes (2001)". British Film Institute. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  3. "15 Minutes (2001) – Financial Information". The Numbers. August 28, 2002. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  4. "15 Minutes (2001)". Box Office Mojo. August 28, 2002. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  5. "15 Minutes (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  6. "15 Minutes Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  7. Ebert, Roger. "15 Minutes". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  8. Hunter, Stephen. "15 Minutes". Washington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  9. Gleiberman, Owen. "15 Minutes". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
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