Slow Burn

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Slow Burn Movie Poster Image
Sluggish thriller mixes flashbacks and deception.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 93 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Everyone (cops, lawyers, and criminals) lies; several characters have secret identities; much discussion of racial "passing" (the term "wigger" is used in that context).


Early shot of dead body with bloody gunshot wound in head; blood on murder suspect's face; flashback to a rape scene shows a man grabbing a woman and her screaming; discussion of a rape exam; many characters carry and shoot guns; cops shoot at fleeing suspects (later viewers learn they're dead); cops bust through a door; fighting and pushing between individual men; riot scene shows burning buildings and people rushing around; gas explosion takes out a city block.


Several passionate kissing scenes (without nudity); woman appears in shower (behind blurry glass door); several sex scenes shot in soft-filter close-up (a couple of scenes are set in beds, while one takes place on a desk; in one scene, breasts are momentarily visible); glimpse of tattoo on woman's bottom before her lover kisses it; brief cleavage; a couple of shots of a man's bare bottom.


Language includes the usual cop-movie fare: several uses of "f--k" (once in French), as well as "ass," "hell," and "s--t," "damn," and "son of a bitch." The "N" word is used by African-American characters.


References to Vanity Fair magazine, Oprah, Tiger Woods, Regis Philbin, Michael Jordan, Die Hard, Sotheby's, Tupac.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking at parties; cigars and cigarettes smoked; repeated references to drugs in context of investigations, including "feeling high," "rock," "crackheads," and "busted for drugs."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although LL Cool J has a small part in this movie, it's not targeted at fans of his children's books or romantic comedies. Slow moving and visually stylized, the film features frequent blood and violence (mostly with guns, plus a couple of explosions), as well as frank discussions of sex (several scenes show nude body parts). The movie's weighty, complex theme of racial "passing" connects to other forms of double crossing and corruption. Discussion of drugs in relation to investigations; profanity includes multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and more.

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What's the story?

When Nora (Jolene Blalock) is arrested for murder, her boss, District Attorney Ford Cole (Ray Liotta), tries to prove her innocence. Nora says the victim, Isaac (Mekhi Phifer), stalked and raped her, so she acted in self-defense. But her version of events is contradicted by Isaac's co-worker Luther (LL Cool J), who says Isaac and Nora were lovers and that she killed him to cover up her many secrets -- including that she's a white woman "passing" for black. While Ford runs around looking for clues, he discovers that Nora's been lying to him for months, both about her work as an award-winning gang prosecutor and her own gang affiliations.


Is it any good?

The key word in this movie's title is "slow." Cole spends the entirety of SLOW BURN coming to see that his star assistant, Nora, isn't what she seems. The seeming racial subplot underlines the movie's thematic focus on the lies told by all of the characters -- both lawyers and criminals -- as they try to outsmart one another and get ahead. Unfortunately, this focus is lost amid dull expository scenes. Most frustratingly, even though Nora is the center of all the men's stories, she remains a cipher, without a life of her own. Luther calls her "a trick of light" (a notion illustrated with a heavy cinematic hand, as she passes through various colored filters), but really, she's just air.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea of racial "passing." What perspective does this movie take on the topic? How does it tie in with the movie's general theme of deception? How do multiple versions of events, remembered differently by different characters, elaborate on the subject of race identity? How have previous movies and TV shows dealt with the issue of "passing"?

Movie details

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