April 13, 2007 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Film | April 13, 2007 |


Well, at least one part of the goddamn title is right: It is motherfucking slow, like a Tim Wakefield knuckleball that you wait all day for, only by the time it arrives at home plate, you’ve walked back into the dugout, slapped some asses, made love to your wife, and read the complete works of Dostoyevsky and you still have time to do a few bench presses, cork your bat, take a few practice swings and read this entire sentence before popping out in the infield. If only Slow Burn were as fascinating as a rally-killing, inning-ending bloop to the second baseman. Indeed, the only interesting detail about the goddamn film is that it sat on the shelf for four years (but for a screening at 2005’s Toronto Film Festival), which means, at least, that Slow Burn offers a weirdly jarring glimpse of a still-skinny Ray Liotta and suggests, by drawing a simple comparison, that the man has gobbled down his fair share of cheeseburgers and Botox in the intervening years.

And it takes about ten minutes before you realize why it sat on the shelf for so long: It’s clear that Lionsgate had hoped, by offering an additional few years, that audiences would completely forget about The Usual Suspects and that Wayne Beach (The Art of War, Murder at 1600) might be able to pass this plagiaristic swill off as his own. Though it may say “Wayne Beach” on the credits, it’s abundantly clear that he took nearly every single goddamn plot point from Christopher McQuarrie’s Suspects’ script, though you do have to give the man some credit for: 1) the Anne Coulter-sized testicles it takes to call Slow Burn an original piece of work with something akin to a straight face; and 2) boiling out everything that was great about Bryan Singer’s flick and leaving only the hardened, stultifying remnants of Suspects and then jamming them into your gingivitis-wrecked gums with all the subtlety of Tanz-Metall.

Ford Cole (Liotta) is a district attorney with a shitty name running for mayor. He is in a tight race that necessitates he hunt down and imprison the film’s Keyser Soze, the unidentified drug-dealing, gang-leading cartel-running gazillionaire Danny Luden. Cole says smart things like, “The first rule of the courtroom is never to ask a question you don’t know the answer to,” nevermind that Beach doesn’t know the first goddamn rule of scriptwriting: Don’t steal courtroom cliches from old episodes of Matlock, you dumb shit. At any rate, Cole is tasked with identifying which of the series of suspects is Luden (though for the spoilerphobes playing at home, let’s not rule him out all together, either) and he has until 5 a.m. to do so before something really bad happens. And by “really bad,” I mean insanely predictable. And the only decent clue he has to go on is the fact that he knows Luder is a fan of “Friends.” (That’s not a joke — initially, that is his only clue.)

And here are your suspects:

Suspect #1: Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock) is an assistant D.A. working under Cole, in both the professional and biblical sense. She’s been picked up and brought in for suspicion of murder. She killed Isaac Duperde (Mekhi Phifer), though she’s claiming that he raped her and she shot him in self defense. (“His blood. It was on my face. I tasted it.”) Timmer’s ambiguous skin-color (“she’s a shadow”) also plays central to the plotline (the old biracial herring); she claims to be black, but others insist that “nobody in her family looks darker than Celine Dion after a bad day at the beach,” and that “the closest she’s been to Africa is Whitney Houston’s greatest hits.” Ha!

Suspect #2: We also have Luther Pinks (James Todd Smith, who most of you know as LL Cool J). Pinks is a friend/co-worker of Isaac and claims that Nora Timmer actually seduced Isaac with the intention of using him to ID Danny Luder and later killed him when she got what she needed. Fun Fact: Pinks has a short in his brain, so that everything smells like food to him. So, for instance, at one point Timmer “smelled like a tangerine. Ripe and ready to be peeled,” while at another, “She smelled like mashed potatoes, and everyone wanted to be the gravy.” Culinary imagery. It’s hard to beat that. Did Pinks do it? Well, I think if you look at the production photo (above) that the studio offered, you might be able to guess that he’s not who he says he is.

Suspect #3: Fisher Steven is also in Slow Burn. He looked like complete shit four years ago, so I’d almost hate to see what he looks like now. “Number Five is Alive!” It’s hard to say the same for Stevens.

Suspect #4: There is also Jeffrey Sykes (Taye Diggs), who Timmer sprung from prison earlier in the day for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, though it is apparent that Sykes can finger Luder and is willing to do so in an effort not to go to prison. Or maybe he is Luder and he is only claiming to be able to identify him. Or maybe he’s going to identify himself and put a bullet in his own brain. Or maybe, just maybe I’d like a donut right now. One of those new Berry Berry donuts I’ve heard about at Dunkin. 330 deliciously empty calories. Hmmmm. If I left right now, I could probably get back in time for … oh shit, sorry. Where was I?

Suspect #5 Oh yeah, the other suspect. It’s just some reporter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) sitting around the police station and listening in on all the other stories, asking the occasional question, and keeping out of the way. He’s barely even there. Hardly worth mentioning.

So, who do you think did it? Guess again. Nope. You got it right the first time.

Dustin “The Barracuda” Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.

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The Usual Suspects

Slow Burn / Dustin Rowles

Film | April 13, 2007 | Comments ()




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