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Improbable Cause | Village Voice


Improbable Cause


Commonly misquoted and misapplied, Warhol’s dictum that everybody in the future will be famous for 15 minutes has had such a long run as a sociocultural axiom that its very definition of “future” lies in question. Don’t count on James Herzfeld’s 15 Minutes to uncloud the looking glass: The reality of “unscripted” programming et al. trumps the critique from the gitgo. Herzfeld robs ideas about cringe TV from Paddy Chayefsky and pawns them back to us as solemn truths. Celebrity cop Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro) sells himself for People covers and guest spots on Top Story, a tabloid show hosted by self-serving slime Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer). But the Judas kiss we expect never materializes—in fact, Flemming makes a straight-faced case for fame helping him solve murders. The killings in focus are perpetrated by sociopathic Euro-hoods, one bulging his eyes in bloodlust as the other makes a camcorder “movie” out of their exploits, signing himself into hotels as “Frank Capra” and refusing to turn the camera off even in Planet Hollywood as they watch Hawkins’s show run their snuff tape.

Like the murders and the double-jeopardy scheme devised to profit from them (the culprits will plead insanity, turn sane, and get a movie deal), the sanctimonious caricature of compulsive autobio filmmaking is glibly ludicrous. But in Herzfeld’s world, the psychos’ dreams come true, and scum-lawyer Bruce Cutler (as himself) shows up to broker the Hollywood deals. Starting out with a nice New Yawk snap (De Niro gets a scene talking to a mirror, again; arson investigator Edward Burns folds his sandpaper larynx around a few badda-bings), 15 Minutes settles into Richard Donner-style goulash. Of course, Grammer’s soulless TV barnacle is the gravest bad guy of them all, deserving of the climactic jawbreaker.

Kieron Walsh’s When Brendan Met Trudy, based as it is upon a Roddy Doyle screenplay, also treats plausibility like a doormat, but not in the service of a greater social statement. The movie could’ve used one, bouncing arbitrarily through the romance between a buttoned-down schoolteacher (Peter McDonald) and an extroverted trollop (Flora Montgomery) who turns out to be a cat burglar. Irony is a casualty here too; Brendan is a movie junkie who watches The Quiet Man with earnest respect and hangs Godard posters everywhere, but he could be obsessing on orchids or model trains for all it’d matter to the film. (Walsh’s one liberating moment—in which the couple nonsensically live out a shot from Breathless—goes nowhere.) Doyle loves bad jokes (movie marquee: The Usual Shite) and his story has no rhyme or reason, dissolving in its last third into a bungled heist and jailhouse face-off. McDonald and Montgomery are likable, but they struggle for footing like cats on a pool cover.

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