Slow Burn (US - DVD R1)
Gabe thinks they probably should've turned the burn up a little bit faster...
Ray Liotta is Ford Cole, a big-city district attorney with his eye on the mayor's office and a big problem on his hands. One of his top deputies, the beautiful assistant district attorney Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock), has just confessed to killing a man. She claims she was raped and the murder was in self-defence. A bad situation gets worse when an enigmatic stranger named Luther Pinks (L.L. Cool J.) turns up at the police station to contradict Nora's story. With his career and perhaps his life on the line, Ford has a mere handful of hours to sort the truth from the lies in a saga involving Nora, a record store clerk, and a powerful gang lord.
It is, without a doubt, always a bad sign when a movie full of stars has little to no theatrical release. When the studio unwilling to release said movie is LionsGate, things look even worse. Slow Burn is the kind of bland and boring rehash one might expect a money hungry, up and coming studio to dump.
The film is written and directed by Wayne Beach, whose only previous credits are a couple of mediocre Wesley Snipes movies, and his credentials speak volumes. Slow Burn is simply serviceable on every level. It's not offensively bad on any level, but it isn't worth sitting through unless you're simply desperate for a twist-laden thriller.
The biggest problem is that the story itself is thin, only really able to fill about thirty minutes of screen time. To cover this Beach uses the old Rashomon structure, to tell the story in flashback and from different points of view. Toss in a little Usual Suspects last act twisting, a whole bunch of visual rehash, and an unnecessary coda, and you can fill out ninety minutes of screen time. I'm sorry, did I say a little Usual Suspects? I mean a whole big bunch.
There is an attempt at socio-political context, but it doesn't fit. There is no room for heavy-handed race identity in this tale of players playing each other. It's just more unnecessary baggage.
Slow Burn is hip, post- Miami Vice (the TV series, not the movie), so at least it's colourful. When it's not trying to be The Usual Suspects it does a decent Michael Mann impersonation. The DVD leaves a little to be desired. Dark scenes lack punch, and the blacks, though often rich, take on a tint of the colours around them. Warm colours are pretty noisy, but cool colours manage to be pretty clean. The general contrast is nice, and whites manage to be bright without distortion.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is fine, but kind of quiet, and really underutilised. The film is dialogue heavy, voiceovers specifically, and all these voices are clear and well balanced. The music is low key, almost comatose, but it sounds warm on the track. The surround and stereo channels are nearly naked except the music, and even the films one giant explosion is pretty centralized and quiet.
I didn't have the time to sit through all of director Wayne Beach's commentary, but I'm pretty sure my sampling was enough to give me a solid idea of his commentary abilities. Beach is well prepared, and well spoken, but leaves quite a few blanks, some adding up to several minutes. His constant references to alternate versions of the script seem to be evidence of trouble. Perhaps he should've starting from scratch rather than constantly retooling his bookends.
The commentary is supported by another LionsGate trivia track. This one's just as unnecessary as the others, and the facts are just as random and few and far between. It's a nice idea, but I really don't need anyone to tell me that 'rat' is slang for an informant.
Next is a semi-pretentious featurette called Fire in the Streets. It's an EPK and sales pitch, and offers no insight to the making of the film. This elongated trailer runs just over seven minutes, and is followed by an alternate scene and a deleted scene. The alternate scene is a slightly different and slightly more satisfying finale. The deleted scene is an unnecessary piece of character exposition. It also happens to be a generally bad scene and its deletion is satisfying. Everything ends with a pile of LionsGate trailers.
Average all around is what Slow Burn is, and I completely understand its nearly DTV status. Those who like this kind of film have already seen it done better. I can't imagine anyone coming away from the film with a sense of satisfaction, though I also can't imagine anyone asking for their money back.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 24th July 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English, Dolby Surround English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, Trivia Track, Deleted and Exteneded Scenes, Featurette, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Wayne Beach
Cast: Ray Liotta, Jolene Blalock, LL Cool J, Taye Diggs
Length: 93 minutes
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