Ray Liotta……….Ford Cole
LL Cool J……….Luther Pinks
Mekhi Phifer……….Isaac Duperde
Jolene Blalock……….Nora Timmer
Guy Torry……….Chet Price
Taye Diggs……….Jeffrey Sykes
Chiwetel Ejiofor……….Ty Trippin
The twist is coming; it has to because the rules of such movies demand it. The inevitability of a “surprise” ending is what makes Slow Burn enthralling. After being delayed since 2005, now is apparently the time to unveil this cinematic brainteaser. Perhaps because there is nothing like it in release right now; then again when was the last Usual Suspects knock-off made? It seems the puzzle-style movie has been out of vogue for some time.
So much time between the trend setter and Slow Burn‘s amateur approach allows the audience to enjoy piecing this specific jigsaw puzzle together. The brisk pacing inhibits the film from offering too much unnecessary information while at the same time keeping the information coming fast enough so that viewers cannot process it all at once. Guessing “whodunit” is the best part, especially if the answer is unexpected. How shocking the revelation is depends on how much one suspends his or her belief.
Reality is cast aside quickly in Slow Burn when it is revealed that District Attorney Ford Cole (Ray Liotta) deems his major enemy to be a gang lord cum entrepreneur, Danny Luden (any number of people). Incidentally, Cole’s bid for mayor could be jeopardized by his connections, accidental or otherwise, to Luden. Things become more complex when Cole discovers that Luden is associated with his Assistant DA Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock). Blalock’s character in particular comes across as implausible as she has reached a high status level on both sides of the law.
However, it works within the film’s framework. Slow Burn embraces the panic of not knowing who’s on what side within bogging itself down in the feasibility of its plot. A great deal of time is spent hearing everyone’s interpretation of the relationship between Nora Timmer and apparent nobody, Isaac Duperde (Mekhi Phifer). While this subplot’s relevance to everything is mostly superficial, the multiple retellings suggest that each character has a deeper motivation.
Such character layering is a spectacular way to get all actors involved in a bit of much welcome scenery chewing, but somehow the events do not feel grave enough. Untangling what side everyone is on is entertaining, but at some point viewers will deserve someone to side with. Near the end of Slow Burn it seems reasonable to believe that Cole might be Luden. An interesting idea to be sure, but something that displays how blurred the lines have become
With such cloudiness, delivering the final plot twist should be simple. Operative word being “should,” but the reason it is not is because the film is unable to offer a culprit that is neither obvious nor one of the usual suspects, for lack of a better term. It is unsatisfying to guess right immediately, but it is worse still not to have known that a character was a part of the game. Viewers can decide for themselves how disappointed they are at the end.
The good news is that the ending is but a small part in a more ambitious effort. That same light, breeziness mentioned before, while taking away from the weight of the conclusion, is exactly what makes Slow Burn a nice stopgap before the summer blockbusters move back into town. It is difficult to hold it against Slow Burn for trying to have fun while reinvigorating a genre that seems long forgotten. It would be nice to see more films that are not afraid to be compared to superior efforts simply to have their names spoken in the same breath.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):