Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Damn you ‘Usual Suspects’, ‘The Sixth Sense’ and all you other cursed film that have a ‘twist’ at the end.  There used to be a time when a movie came on, characters ran across the screen, shot each other, screwed, then shot each other some more and the credits rolled.  But now filmmakers want to get all twisty with their stuff and trick us with their cleverness.  The leads us nicely to the DEJ production of ‘Slow Burn’ which though tailor made for a Direct to Video release, is being violently released unleashed upon an unsuspecting viewing public in theaters.

Before I go on to the description of this movie, let me say it had a really nice cast.  Ray Liotta is district attorney Ford Lowell who is in the midst of conducting an interview with a Vanity Fair style reporter played by Chiewetal Ejiofor.  He gets an urgent call cutting the interview short as his top assistant D.A. Nora Trimmer (Jolene Blalock) has just killed a man in her apartment who was raping her.  Or so she says.  It seems this man (Mikhei Pfeifer) has a best friend by the name of Luther Pinks (James Todd Smith) who says it was murder, not rape.  At the center of all of this is a mysterious, string pulling, is a Sozeesque gangster by the name of Danny Luden who nobody’s ever seen. 

There’s a racial aspect to the story as well as Blalock’s character is a driven light skinned righteous soul sista whose true heritage eventually gets called into question.   What’s a bit odd here is Jolene Blalock is a about as black as I am.   Wait, I am black, so scratch that.  Using the tried and true Kurosawaesque ‘Rashamon’ technique, everybody has a story to tell, but for some reason, each one is different though the characters are the same.  This is all boiling down to something heavy jumping off at 5 AM and is foreshadowed so much that you’d have to be an idiot, or Ray Liotta’s character, not to figure out what it is.

‘Slow Burn’ starts out innocently enough but somewhere in the middle of this thing director Wayne Beach obviously threw his hands up in the air and decided to stop paying ‘homage’ to ‘The Usual Suspects’ and just rip it off completely.  The problem however is that they made the story for too confusing and overreaching.  I know they were trying to keep the audience on their toes, but halfway in, you're probably not going to care who the hell Danny Luden is since I’m thinking the filmmakers didn’t even know until they got the end of the script and had to make it somebody.  And that’s how the ‘twist’ comes off, leaving you saying ‘what?’  Ray Liotta’s character runs around like a total numbskull believing whatever it was the last person said to him, then looking shocked when it turns out he or she was lying to him.  Problem is Liotta doesn’t play stupid very well, even though I know he’s not SUPPOSED to be stupid, but his character is very stupid. Liotta comes off as far too street wise to get sucked up in this ridiculous plot the way it’s laid out.  The movie also has gaping plot holes and leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but at least the filmmakers saw fit to keep the running relatively brief at under 90 minutes, so if they had to leave questions unanswered to jump to the closing credits, then I thank them for that.

But all is not lost though.  Like I said before the movie has a strong cast with those mentioned above along with Taye Diggs, character actor extraordinaire Bruce McGill and Guy Torry.  James Todd manages to bring up the level of any production he’s in, and then there’s Jolene Blalock playing a ‘keepin it real sista.’  I didn’t buy her as being black, but I did buy her as having an amazing body.  Anybody who ever suffered through an episode of ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ and ever wondered what Commander T’pols bod looked like under that tight lycra, well now we know.  And it is all good.  For real.  Damn.  I’d almost recommend the movie on that alone.  But I can’t do that because there were times near the end when I just burst out in laughter, and I know it wasn’t supposed to be funny.  And as derivative as the ending was trust me when I tell you that they simply can’t let well enough alone and they allow it get even worse.

‘Slow Burn’ is not without its merits and would make a dynamite rental if it were delivered to your door, but grabbing your keys, jumping in your car, finding a parking spot and shelling out 40 bucks for you, your girl and snacks for this is asking way too much.  Yeah, Jolene Blalock nude is a good thing, but if Bryan Singer wanted to bring suit against these guys for theft, I’d be forced to testify if they subpoenaed me.

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