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Overall Rating
2.63

Awesome: 10%
Worth A Look: 16.67%
Average: 13.33%
Pretty Bad46.67%
Total Crap: 13.33%

2 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Slow Burn
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by Erik Childress

"Singer & McQuarrie Ė Call Your Lawyers!"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Donít you just love those straight-to-video releases which lift the artwork directly from more popular and easily recognizable successes? They may not even have anything in common with the other film, but they will get your attention just in hopes to fool you long enough to pick it up. This summer saw more than a few War of the Worlds wannabes. Cheapo companies with animated quickies would lurch off Disney product for years, before the MouseHouse began doing it themselves with their own DTV sequels. Wayne Beach may have read in the ripoff handbook that ten years may be the official moratorium on when you can outright steal a major film from front-to-back. Although itís easy to question why do it to one thatís earned the status of a modern classic, the one I would ask is Ė just how big are your balls?

It wonít take more than a few sentences of description before you can guess which film Iím talking about, but play along just for suspense sake. Ray Liotta is District Attorney Ford Lowell who is called down to the police station late one night when his assistant D.A. , Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock) claims she was raped by the dead man (Mekhi Phifer) now lying in her apartment. The situation is about to be swept under the carpet when Luther Pinks (James Tood Smith aka LL Cool J Ė actual credit listing) comes in claiming to have further information that connects the dots to a citywide crime leader named Danny Luden, whom no one has ever seen. Figured it out yet?

Thus begins an endless night of Rashomon-like stories coming from both interrogation rooms and Liotta chasing down clues that may lead to the biggest arrest of his career. Too bad heís mentally asleep on the gas leak that keeps getting reinvigorated into the plot. Could that have something to do with whatís going down at 5 AM? The biggest distraction other than Commander TíPolís breasts on several occasions is the impressive cast Beach managed to sign-on to the Soze-come-lately party. Thereís already enough names to stash above the title on the video box, but it also arrives with the likes of Taye Diggs, Bruce McGill, Guy Torry and the great Chiwetel Ejiofor, each of them classing up the joint and providing enough unusual suspects to pin the final revelation on. Trust me when I say you donít need a surgeonís license.

The oddest of which is Blalock playing a light-skinned African-American. You may be ready to deduct points from your everyday skills of observation in the Lonette McKee Industrial School of ďwhich race are you?Ē, but donít because you already passed that exam. And because we at the very least think we know what side of the Mason-Dixon Line Blalock resides, it becomes even more ridiculous than Anthony Hopkins playing the race card in The Human Stain. Itís no more a piece of acting than Neil Diamond putting on the blackface in The Jazz Singer and far more preposterous once our suspicions are confirmed just halfway through the film.

The casting is just part of Slow Burnís mystery, although Iíd love someone to explain why Lady Lovesí character trait is his ability to associate peopleís smells with that of food. (ďShe smelled like mashed potatoes and everyone wanted to be the gravy.Ē) Interrogations and a Keyser Soze wannabe are enough to draw comparisons to the Oscar-winning screenplay from 1995, so why invite further ridicule by littering the third act with the near-exact same conclusion. From the belief that one character is Danny Luden, then another, than the interrogatorís realization that the first wrong guess he made wasnít the last to the guy being right under his nose only to have a car waiting for him outside complete with flashbacks and the filmmakers having fun with chameleon metaphors and lens gels.

Slow Burn whizzes by in that late-night-bad-but-still-curious-how-it-ends way and with the exception of the one-note Cool James (whose character unnecessarily strings along Liotta and the audience when a simple flash of his wallet would have sufficed) is kept afloat with its first-class cast. But the millisecond its all over youíll be wondering if the ink has dried on the court papers filed by Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie. Writer/director Beach is no stranger to unoriginal concoctions with two Wesley Snipes vehicles under his screenwriting belt (Murder at 1600, The Art of War). Thereís a bit more credit on the directing side and I guess if everyone steals from everyone in Hollywood anyway, some of it can be forgiven. But Iíd sure hate to see what Beach would have in store for Apt Pupil.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12753&reviewer=198
originally posted: 09/22/05 12:26:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/16/08 PAUL SHORTT A FAR FETCHED URBAN TALE OF CHAMELEON LIKE CHARACTERS 1 stars
4/05/08 kinge better movie than michael clayton/ it is a usual suspects rip off 4 stars
11/03/07 William Goss A tedious third-rate Usual Suspects. LL Cool J does get to spout some truly awful dialogue. 2 stars
9/25/07 Donna A. Saw this last night. I gave it 3/5. A okay movie that could have been better. 3 stars
8/12/07 mr,mike good....on cable. overly complicated and Ray looks stunned throughout. 3 stars
8/08/07 Me She doen't even look ethnic!! Braids don't make you black. 2 stars
8/07/07 Kirk J Bad Bad Bad..waste of my time 1 stars
7/29/07 avid renter Stupid rip off that's more of an insult to Usual Suspects as opposed to a compliment... 1 stars
7/27/07 action movie fan interesting full of surprises but not gripping enough 3 stars
4/19/07 mtgman poor mans usual suspects 4 stars
4/17/07 Sue Brett Excellent, spellbounding, great cast 5 stars
4/15/07 JJC Bad movie I see why it's copy right is 2005 and the film just hit theaters Spring 2007 BAD! 1 stars
4/15/07 CWS Suspenseful, with enough subtle hints that made it interesting. Credible performance by JB. 3 stars
11/23/06 sipovic Nice, really nice movie 4 stars
10/06/06 Mick Good Film 4 stars
1/25/06 Annie Finally men of colour have intellegant characters to play! 4 stars
9/17/05 JT Tarragon Gripping! 5 stars
9/15/05 Burt Convey Fantabulous! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Apr-2007 (R)
  DVD: 24-Jul-2007

UK
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Australia
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[trailer] Trailer


Directed by
  Wayne Beach

Written by
  Wayne Beach

Cast
  Ray Liotta
  Jolene Blalock
  LL Cool J
  Taye Diggs
  Chiwetel Ejiofor
  Bruce McGill



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