Reel Shorts | Slow Burn

13 04 2007

Timing is everything. In 2001, Mariah Carey released her big screen debut, “Glitter,” right after the September 11 attacks. The country may not have been in a mood for such light entertainment so soon after a national tragedy; or Carey’s acting and a horrid script may have kept audiences away. History repeats itself once again with the release of “Slow Burn.”

Originally produced in 2003 and slated for release in 2005, “Slow Burn” feels dated. The film is a complex tale of race and how it is used for positive results and its negative effects.

The film opens with a young woman, Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock) in a police station, the survivor of a rape attempt. She’s also murdered a young man, Issac Duperde (Mekhi Phifer) in self-defense. Through a complicated backstory, we learn that she is the assistant D.A. and a rising star. This bi-racial Black woman has climbed the ladder quickly largely on her ability to prosecute gang members because of her access to them and her race.

Her boss, Ford Cole’s (Ray Liotta) star is on also on the ascent, he is running for Mayor. As the film opens he is being interviewed for a magazine story by journalist, Ty Trippin (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he explains that his chief enemy is an unseen powerful gang lord, who has vowed to bring down. We find out through flashbacks that he too is involved sexually with the attractive Timmer.

But the night is still young when a mysterious stranger, Luther Pinks (LL Cool J) comes in, friends with Duperde, with an entirely different perspective on the sexy assistant D.A. He tells Cole that Timmer is a “trick of light,” someone who when the light hits them at a certain angle can pass for White. In “Rashomon”-type flashbacks, he paints a picture of an opportunistic, conniving operator selling out her office and the people closest to her. To complicate matters, Duperde has left a cryptic voicemail on Cole’s cell phone alluding to something major happening at 5 a.m., four hours away.

The film which is “The Usual Suspects” meets “Wild Things,” features a character that is supposedly “passing” for White that has features that make it hard to identify her as Black. Blalock definitely scorches the screen in the lead role, but the film looks and feels like countless other late-night movies that inhabit cable. Some of the fashions in the film look dated, while the screenwriter in an attempt to be clever gives the audience too much to digest further complicating the procedures.

By the time the film draws to its inevitable conclusion, you will be turned inside out. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this sexy thriller ultimately left me unfulfilled.

Grade: D+

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