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Published January 1st, 2005 | by Mike Barnard

Slow Burn Review

Classification: 15 Director: Wayne Beach Rating: 2/5

When he’s not starring in films that are worthy to be part of any DVD collection, Ray Liotta can turn up in the most random of places. Goodfellas, Cop Land and Narc all displayed his considerable acting talents and will be among the films he is remembered for putting in fine performances. However, for some reason he has a habit of appearing in a lot of under par outings such as the lame aeroplane thriller Turbulence, Guy Ritchie’s folly Revolver and this, Slow Burn. It is a messy mistaken identity story low on thrills, action and lighting.

Liotta plays District Attorney Ford Cole, a big city figurehead aiming for the mayor’s office with the answers to all the questions a journalist could throw at him. Despite seemingly being in complete control of his future, things change dramatically one night when his assistant Nora Timmer (Blalock) confesses to killing a man in self defence. Her story is believable enough, especially as she tells it in a darkened police station room looking very much like the victim, until the arrival of the mysterious Luther Pinks (LL Cool J). He is willing to contradict Nora’s story, placing Ford’s career on the line. Exactly who is telling the truth and who is trying to mask their tracks with false stories leads to a confusing series of interrogations and conflicting accounts which are hardly understandable, even after 15 minutes of explanation at the end.

Until then it is largely left to a lot of waffling in darkened witness rooms, streets and houses between Ford and a range of criminals and authority figures to sidestep around any hint of a cohesive story. The verbal grillings Ford partakes in focus on who knows who and why, with something about a businessman set to make it big on a land investment coming into play to add to the mix of political corruption and dodgy deals. The aim is clearly to layer criss-crossing tracks of truth and lies ready to be untangled in a spate of revelations in the final reel. This would be fine if director Beach could have kept it all under close control.

Supposed victim Nora always seems to exert too much control over others in the flashbacks, especially both Ford and Isaac whom she sleeps with, undermining a lot of the claims she could be innocent and removing the only potentially sympathetic figure aside from Ford. Meanwhile, Ford’s desperate rushing from one witness to another gives rise to a lot of talk about how much time he needs and very little about what he is actually discovering. It is only when Pinks suddenly decides to be more explicit with his story that Slow Burn generates any progress, but then it all happens too quickly to care. Beach needed to ensure every moment of Slow Burn was exactly that: a heated yet carefully restrained unfolding of events, not this jumbled mix. It’s another film Liotta will definitely leave off his CV when looking for his next major role.

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