Brisk Pacing Not Enough to Ignite Slow Burn
- Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
- 2007 13 Apr
DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: April 13, 2007
Rating: R (for sexuality, language and violence)
Run Time: 1 hr. 33 min.
Director: Wayne Beach
Actors: Ray Liotta, LL Cool J, Mekhi Phifer, Taye Diggs, Jolene Blalock, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Big city District Attorney Ford Cole (Ray Liotta, Wild Hogs) doesn’t miss much. He’s so used to being in the spotlight, in fact, that he knows exactly what questions reporters will ask him, right before they ask. He calls it the “art of anticipation.” Of course, that’s the job of a prosecutor—to know his enemy, and to never be surprised.
But when Cole’s bi-racial lover and assistant district attorney, Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock, Star Trek: The Enterprise), is arrested for murder, Cole is stymied. Nora insists it was self-defense, and offers a plausible explanation about her victim, Isaac Duperde (Mekhi Phifer). After stalking her for more than a week, she said, Isaac showed up at her house and attempted to rape her.
It’s a public relations mess, but Cole thinks he can deal with it—even though he is running for mayor and also happens to be in the middle of an interview with a Vanity Fair reporter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is on the scene when the scandal hits. But after Luther Pinks (LL Cool J) shows up and tells a conflicting story, Cole is no longer certain about anything.
According to Pinks, Nora has been sleeping with her victim for months. Not only that, but she’s also involved in some shady operations with Cole’s nemesis, gang lord Danny Lewton. Nora denies everything, of course. So who’s telling the truth? Can anyone ever know? And what’s this about something big happening at 5 a.m.? Ford needs to find out, because the chief of police has given him until then to unravel the mystery. After that, he’s taking over the case.
The acting in this neo-noir thriller is good, with Liotta, LL Cool J, Ejiofor and Phifer all doing stellar jobs despite characters that utter lines like "She stood there smelling like a tangerine—ripe and ready to be peeled” and “She walked in smelling like mashed potatoes, and every guy within 30 feet wanted to be the gravy." Hmmm . . . mashed potatoes. Now there’s a compliment my husband hasn’t thought of. Blalock, a relative newcomer to the big screen, is bland, however.
Another problem is the film’s coherency. Writer/director Wayne Beach (The Art of War) has included more twists and turns than a licorice stick. Take, for instance, the detour into whether Nora is black or white, which has no relevance to the story. He also never explains why Nora became involved with Isaac to begin with, and confuses us with all sorts of identity shifts. Then, at the end, there is a bizarre montage which seems to nullify the ending. Or is this a flashback?
The plot, which appears to be a cross between The Usual Suspects and Basic Instinct, moves along at a brisk pace. Too brisk, really, at just 93 minutes, which adds to the challenge of trying to follow the plot. Some will be put off by the film’s overt sexuality as well—an overt contrivance which takes every advantage of the leading lady’s curves.
The message is that if you’re smart, evil and willing to do anything, you can become rich, successful and, quite literally, get away with murder. That’s akin to Pretty Woman—teaching young girls that by walking the streets as a prostitute, they can find, fall in love with and marry the man of your dreams. Eventually, however, as Proverbs says, “Fools are killed by their own stupidity.”
Slow Burn may not keep you on the edge of your seat, but it will keep you interested. Just be prepared for a little confusion. And don’t blink.
AUDIENCE: Adults only
- Commentary by Director Wayne Beach
- “Fire in the Streets” Featurette
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes
- Spanish Subtitles
- Drugs/Alcohol: Various scenes (e.g. cocktail party, bar) where people drink and smoke.
- Language/Profanity: Moderate.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Several explicit nude scenes with side views of nudity and rear female nudity; various references to sex as well as themes that involve sexual blackmail and manipulation.
- Violence: Various murders, including disturbing images of guns, blood, and dead bodies; crime scene investigations and various discussions of murder as well.