Artisan // 2000 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Thomas Bigboy (Retired) // September 26th, 2000
Lust, Greed, Betrayal...
Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, Sleepers), James Spader (Supernova, sex, lies, and videotape), Josh Brolin (Goonies, Hollow Man), and Stuart Wilson (Enemy of the State, Mask of Zorro) star in this tale of greed in the desert. When you feel like turning off your brain for a while and watching some well known actors roast in the hot desert sun, pop this disc in and give it a spin.
Slow Burn is the second paring of director Christian Ford and writer Roger Soffer. The two previously teamed up on the very forgettable Kazaam starring Shaquille O'Neil. Adding insult to injury, they are listed as the movie's writers. OUCH! Well, these credits, coupled with the fact that this is a bare bones DVD presented in full frame only (more on that later), had my expectations at an all-time low. Guess what, I was pleasantly surprised.
Paulina McTeague lost her life suddenly and tragically to the vast desert she lived in. She carried with her the family's fortune in diamonds and she, along with the diamonds, were swallowed by the blazing sand. Three generations of McTeague's have spent and subsequently lost their lives in search of the diamonds, but Trina (Minnie Driver) is confident that she won't be the fourth.
Growing up in the desert, Trina made it her life's goal to scour the endless sand dunes and salt flats until she found the missing jewels. For several years her search has continued and she has all but exhausted her resources. She is on the verge of giving up hope and is contemplating a "normal" life beyond the realm of the desert. Her life is about to experience a drastic change, but it isn't the one she had in mind.
Two escaped convicts stumble into her world with a little something they picked up en route...a shiny silver box containing her family's lost diamonds. Marcus (James Spader) and Duster (Josh Brolin) are your stereotypical "smart, puny, bad guy" and "dumb, strong bad guy." The two realize that Trina is a child of the desert and decide to exploit her navigational skills to find their way out of the desert and into a new life.
The three are inundated with bad luck and are forced to work together. Trina realizes that she must join forces with the convicts if she is to escape certain death out in the desert. While helping Marcus and Duster repair a damaged jeep, Trina was busy scheming out a plan to grab the diamonds and ditch the two bumbling fools.
Well, just take the last two paragraphs and repeat them for 90 minutes and you have the entire story laid out for you. Nothing special, but again, I wasn't expecting anything special.
Slow Burn is a good looking movie. The picture, though presented in Full Frame on this disc, looks pretty good. The white of the desert sand provides for some very nice contrast with the wardrobe of the cast. Whites were Fargo white and colors stood out like the garden of candies in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
Also impressive was the makeup, yes the makeup. It really looked like James Spader and Josh Brolin were severely sun burned with chapping and blisters to boot. As a fan of sci-fi and horror effects, I had something to root for. I kept waiting for their faces to crack and bleed though. Oh well, maybe in the sequel.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack was subtle, yet effective. Anthony Marinelli's score was a nice blend of jazz and experimental orchestration. I noticed it perfectly adding the suspense and tension the director often seemed to miss. Based on the fact that it had such a shoestring budget (under $1 million including post-production), it is very surprising how good the movie looked and sounded.
Full Frame! AAAAAGGGHHH!!! I refuse to accept that this movie had to be presented in this aspect ratio. (Come on Artisan, we've come to expect more from you. You're the studio that gave us T2: Ultimate Edition for crying out loud.) Besides the glaring omission of an anamorphic or even wide screen transfer, the print was very dirty. There were spots and specks throughout the entire movie. Definitely not reference material.
It is understandable that we didn't get a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of this movie. However, as a home theater enthusiast, I've come to expect it. It would have added to the experience, which in this case is definitely needed.
Not only the sound and presentation sucked though. No, a close third would have to be the acting. Who would've thought Minnie Driver could be sooo bland. She's shown she has the acting chops necessary to carry a movie in the past (Circle of Friends), and has set a standard for herself that she was incapable of maintaining in this picture. Don't expect any of these actors to pull in the Oscar come awards time
Don't run out and buy this movie. As a matter of fact, don't even bother renting it. Wait till it comes out on HBO when you've got nothing better to do. Before you watch it, lower your expectations a notch and you may end up enjoying it.
Artisan is guilty of a being suckered into acquiring the rights for this movie. Guilty also are the actors who should know better than to suck. Guilty am I for watching this and writing such a lengthy review. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Cast and Crew Information
* Production Notes
* Interactive Menus