Retro Review: Slow Burn

Filmed back in 2003 and has been sitting on the shelf ever since, “Slow Burn” is a sizzling crime drama that stars Ray Liotta as Ford Cole, an aspiring district attorney who has big political plans.

He wants more than anything to bring down the notorious gangster Danny Noonan and become mayor. His ideas grind to a screaming halt when one of his deputies, Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock) confesses to killing a man (Mekhi Phifer) in what she claims was self defense. Funny, since the man’s body now lays in her bed.

Cole puts his faith in Timmer and begins to follow all leads. Just when Cole starts to understand everything, a stranger (LL Cool J) enters the precinct and starts to paint completely different picture of who Nora Timmer actually is.

The clock begins to tick and Cole has just hours to find out who Nora Timmer is, who is pulling the strings and how all this links back to the elusive Danny Noonan.

Writer-director Wayne Beach has constructed a rather interesting maze of mistaken identities, elusive strangers and blurring the racial barrier.

Probably Beach’s greatest claim to fame is that he wrote the Wesley Snipes pictures “Murder at 1600” and “The Art of War”. Both of those pictures showed signs of becoming something more than they were but it was probably the direction that really did them in.

In “Slow Burn”, Beach decided to make his directorial debut and try to overcome what has plagued him in the past. Sometimes you just have to do it yourself.

Beach succeeds to mixed results. His film feels like a much weaker version of “The Usual Suspects” as his elusive Danny Noonan becomes sort of a Keyser Soze kind of character.

Ray Liotta delivers a strong performance but haven’t we seen him play this role countless times. I really liked the performances of LL Cool J and Mekhi Phifer who seem to be the most genuine of the whole film. I even liked some of the smaller roles played by Taye Diggs and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Probably the weakest of the whole cast is Jolene Blalock, who just seems to tread water in a role that should be enigmatic, luscious and convincing. She is the centre-piece of this whole entire film and she is just plain dull.

They needed a stronger actress to play this woman who walks the fine line between black and white both in race and her allegiance. This film would have been utter magic if an Angelina Jolie or someone of her caliber played this role. With an amazing performance from the central woman you could have had a “Basic Instinct” meets “The Usual Suspects” sort of film.

As I watched this film I mainly saw what could have been not what was there. And now that I think about it that is exactly what I was doing with everyone of Beach’s other films. One day Beach is going to get it and it will be magnificent. Keep trying, buddy!

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Note: Also see my review quote on the Slow Burn DVD, out now!

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