"S'agapo. Se latrevo. Koukla mou." In John Herzfeld's new cop thriller 15 Minutes, it is Robert De Niro-- in the role of homicide detective Eddie Flemming-- who addresses these adoring words to Melina Kanakaredes. But the statuesque Greek American actress, star of the television series Providence, is no doubt already well-accustomed to receiving such glowing expressions of affection-- from her many adoring fans.

Born in 1967 to Greek parents living in Akron, Ohio, Melina began her career as a performer by acting, singing, and dancing in community productions and school plays. After high school, Melina first attended Ohio State University, where she became first runner-up at the Miss Ohio Pageant, and then transferred to Point Park College, from where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.F.A. in acting and musical theater. Highlights of her television career include a four-year stint as Eleni Andros Cooper on the daytime soap opera Guiding Light, recurring appearances as reporter Benita Allen on NYPD Blue, the role of the beautiful but vengeful Victoria on a two-hour Due South episode called "Victoria's Secret," and-- of course-- the role of plastic surgeon Sydney Hansen on NBC's popular series Providence. Film credits include The Long Kiss Goodnight, Dangerous Beauty, Bleeding Hearts, and, now, John Herzfeld's newly released, action-packed 15 Minutes.

In 15 Minutes, Melina plays Greek American TV reporter Nicolette Karras, girlfriend of superstar cop Eddie Flemming (Robert De Niro). With his gruff charisma and flair for solving sensational cases, Eddie has gained something of the status of a celebrity in media-obsessed New York city. A series of gruesome crimes puts Eddie in partnership with idealistic but hot-tempered arson investigator Jordy (Edward Burns), whose clumsy public image is supposed to contrast with cool and savvy Eddie's knack at working the media to his own advantage. In typical cop-drama style, Jordy and Eddie find that their initial resistance to each other gives way to mutual admiration and affection as their search for the perpetrators of the horrific crimes intensifies. Under pursuit are fiendish Emil (Karel Roden) and his camera-toting pal Oleg (Oleg Taktarov), two stereotypically villainous Eastern Europeans who become swept up in a nightmarish cycle of violence soon after their arrival in New York. Oleg's obsession with making movies finds a grim outlet when he takes to videotaping Emil's brutal acts, and soon the two fugitives-- inspired by what they see as the shallow sensationalism of America's TV and tabloid culture-- hatch a plan to use the tapes to win fame, fortune, and freedom from the law. Gambling that their action will be taken as proof of their insanity and thus will guarantee legal absolution, Emil and Oleg auction off the videotapes to a sleazy talk show host (Kelsey Grammer) who is all too willing to give them their 15 minutes of fame in exchange for a boost in his ratings.

Fans of Melina Kanakaredes will find her as lovely as ever, and Hellenes will be tickled by the scene in which De Niro's Eddie fumblingly practices his Greek before proposing to his beautiful Greek American girlfriend. Unfortunately, however, the movie as a whole is quite disappointing. Despite its attempt at social commentary, 15 Minutes is basically just a routine action movie with little nuance and depth but much gore and violence. Dramatic relationships between the characters are never allowed to fully develop, and the characters themselves are flat and one-sided-- mere caricatures, really. Instead of a well-crafted plot that would sustain our interest through its own ingenuity, we get a tortuous barrage of gruesome scenes that seem intended solely to shock us into paying attention. Presumably the movie sees itself as offering a powerful indictment of the ugly excesses of sensationalist TV journalism and the media-obsessed culture it fuels. But although the moral that Herzfeld wants us to draw is pounded out with all the subtlety of a bully pulpit sermon, the movie can't even sustain the soapbox and the message falls flat on its own face. For in the end, 15 Minutes proves itself to be a movie with about a 15 minute attention span-- a movie that is itself too shallow and full of gratuitous sensationalism to be taken seriously. Stay home and watch Providence instead.