Dir/scr: Wayne Beach. US. 2005. 93mins.
A debut feature directed and written by Wayne Beach,
It's a tricked out mystery, though rather than luxuriate in the sleazeand nastiness, Beach wants to be taken seriously. But he introduces, veryawkwardly, some unreflective ideas about race and representation into hiscrudely drawn and derivative thriller, resulting not just in a bad movie but asometimes unpleasant experience.
Sam Fuller knew how to play off social observation, race and classbrilliantly in his 1950s crime movies, but the didactic and mannered way thatBeach couches his arguments makes SlowBurn even more spurious.
Set in an unidentified blighted urban centre (shot in suburban Montreal,the streets are all named after Chicago locations), the movie opens with thediscovery of a dead man, Isaac Duparde (Phifer), in the bed of beautiful, talented assistantdistrict attorney Nora Timmer (Blalock), who isrenown for her work in anti-gang crime.
Nora insists she acted in self-defence to fend off a rapist: her boss,Ford Lowell (Liotta), a politically ambitioushardliner running for mayor, believes her. But then Luther Pinks (Smith), afriend and co-worker, contradicts her version with detailed, credible evidencethat Nora is a criminal mastermind working in concert with a notorious unseencrime lord who is keen to gain valuable possession of a development location.
In the flashbacks that constitute a serious part of the narrative,Nora's testimony as a courageous public official is counterpointedagainst Pinks' story that paints her as a duplicious,vicious femme fatale who utilises sexual manipulation, blackmail and trickeryto achieve her cruel ends.
Working against a growing body count and desperate to identify the crimelord, Ford is given a four-hour deadline to solve the multiple mysteries andbreak up the conspiracy ring.
Photographed by the talented Wally Pfister (
The actors take the material seriously despite their characters beingcrudely drawn and occasionally leaving a bitter taste. But the opportunistictone makes it often unwatchable and its scenes drained of tension, interest anddramatic revelation.
Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
James Todd Smith (aka LL Cool J)