District attorney Ford Cole is running for mayor, promising to capture the city's elusive crime boss, Danny Ludin. On the night of a gas link in the inner city, his interview with a national reporter is interrupted by word that his best prosecutor, Nora Timmer, who's also his lover, has killed a man she claims was assaulting her. A few minutes later, a man shows up at Cole's office claiming it was murder, implicating Nora in complicated schemes and crimes. Cole wants a few hours to get to the bottom of a mess that quickly includes land deals, shell corporations, and political corruption. Who's setting up whom? Written by
In the opening scene of "Slow Burn," an assistant district attorney (Jolene Blalock) is found wandering the streets of the city, disheveled and confused, informing those who find her that she has just killed a rapist in self defense. The alleged attacker (Mekhi Phifer) was a man she supposedly met one night in a record store and who then proceeded to stalk her for weeks thereafter. Suddenly, into the head D.A.'s office strides LL Cool J, as a friend of the deceased who has a considerably different story to tell about the events leading up to the murder as well as an entirely disparate take on the couple's relationship. Things get even more dicey when we discover that the D.A. (Ray Liotta) and the assistant D.A. have been conducting a torrid affair of their own for a number of years now.
"Slow Burn" fails on so many levels of rudimentary storytelling and film-making that it's hard to know where exactly to begin in compiling a list of its shortcomings. To start with, there's something inherently self-defeating and pointless in constructing a narrative from two widely conflicting viewpoints - a la "Rashomon" - when one of the supposed eyewitnesses is already dead and, thus, unable to personally relate his side of the story. How does it enhance the verisimilitude of the tale if most of our information has to come filtered down to us through a secondhand source, a person who wasn't even present at the events he's describing - unless, of course, he was hiding in a nearby closet during all those "intimate" moments he is able to recount in such juicy and exhaustive detail? Either that or the murder victim was one of the chattiest, kiss-and-tell gossips in the history of the movies. And why does it take till the closing reels for the supposedly intelligent professional investigators to smell a rat in that setup? Eventually, the twist-and-turn plotting leads to so much incoherence and confusion that you might well wonder if the filmmakers themselves understood what it was they were doing.
Beyond the clumsy, inscrutable storytelling, "Slow Burn" also suffers from some of the most overripe dialogue this side of "The Black Dahlia." With such knee-slapping howlers as "She stood there like a tangerine, ripe and ready to be peeled" and "She walked in smelling like mashed potatoes and every guy within thirty feet wanted to be the gravy," the script could easily win First Prize in a Bad Film Noir Writing contest. It's hard to believe at such times that the film isn't actually intended to be a parody (the acting sure suggests it on occasion). On second thought, perhaps it would be best to stick with that notion; it just might go down easier that way.
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