Slow Burn Review
By Shawn McKenzie 05/15/2007
Ford Cole (Ray Liotta) is the district attorney for an unnamed city (it was filmed in Montreal.) He is also running for mayor, because he knows that he can run the city better than the current one, Mayor Godfrey (Bruce McGill.) As the movie begins, he is having British magazine journalist Ty Trippin (Chiwetel Ejiofor) follow him around while he essentially campaigns to Ty’s readers. One of the people who has been essential to Cole’s success has been Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock), his gorgeous bi-racial A.D.A. who has been a natural in prosecuting gang members, since her dreadlocks make her look like she can identify with them. She also happens to be Cole’s lover. One gang leader they haven’t been able to seize and prosecute is Danny Luden, a kingpin who has been buying up all of the city’s slum real estate. Cole has to put the campaign on hold though when Nora is arrested for the murder of part-time record store employee and waiter Isaac Duperde (Mekhi Phifer.) He was found dead in her bed with a bullet hole in his head, but Nora swears it was self-defense, since he was intending to rape her after stalking her previously. Cole isn’t so sure…and it doesn’t help matters when former Detroit gang cop and record store coworker Luther Pinks (James Todd Smith, a.k.a. LL Cool J) steps up and says that Nora and Isaac were lovers for the last four months. Supposedly, she was paying Isaac monetarily and sexually in order to get tips on Luden. Ford and his assistant Chet Price (Guy Torry) try tracking down other criminals, such as gang member Jeffrey Sykes (Taye Diggs), in order to get to the truth.
You have to wonder why a movie takes four years to be released after it has completed its production. In the case of Slow Burn…it’s not so much of a mystery.
The movie was originally filmed and completed in 2003, but it took another two years before it saw the light of day anywhere. That “anywhere” would be the Toronto Film Festival in September of 2005. After that, it was seen at the Cognac Film Festival in April of last year, and has already been released on DVD in some other countries since then. I believe that it was the stellar cast that gave it a theatrical release date rather than releasing it direct-to-DVD.
The semi-Rashomon-like plot (well…it’s like that Akira Kurosawa movie…only it’s the viewpoint of two people instead of five people) would have been an interesting story…if it had played out a little better. You didn’t know whether to believe Nora or Luther…and in the end…you don’t care. First time director Wayne Beach wrote the screenplay based on a story written by himself and some guy named Anthony Walton. It was so boring that the “twist” in the end doesn’t excite you. It looks like Beach should stick to writing scripts for Wesley Snipes, because his two previous screenplays were 1997’s Murder at 1600 (a good movie) and 2000’s The Art of War (a just-okay movie.)
It’s not the acting that was bad. Liotta was his usual intense self and LL Cool J was his usual smooth self. Phifer played a major character…but he didn’t really stand out. Blalock was a refreshing surprise, because I’m used to seeing her play the stiff, calculating Vulcan T’Pol on UPN’s old “Star Trek” spin-off “Enterprise.” In this movie, we do get to see another side of her talent. She convincingly played a bi-racial woman (and it doesn’t hurt that we get to see her gratuitously topless during her love scenes.)
Lionsgate used to be the studio that took chances on controversial films that other studios wouldn’t touch. Now they seem to be the studio that’s the dumping ground for films no studio will touch because the films themselves suck. In the last year, it seems like most of their wide releases were not screened for critics (including Slow Burn.) I would love to see them get back to releasing movies that create a controversial buzz…like 1998’s Happiness or 1999’s Dogma. Movies like this one aren’t exactly controversial…other than the fact that they decided to release it in the first place in order to make a quick buck.
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