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Arts & EventsDVD Review: Dolan's Cadillac

DVD Review: Dolan's Cadillac

DVD Review: Dolan's Cadillac

Filmed in Saskatchewan, DOLAN’S CADILLAC (2009) had everything going for it: it’s based on a hard-edged crime story by horror master Stephen King; it stars Wes Bentley (American Beauty, Ghost Rider) and Christian Slater (True Romance, Interview with the Vampire); and it features Vancouver-born actress Emmanuelle Vaugier (Saw II, Saw IV, CSI: NY) in a key supporting role.

Sad to say, DOLAN’S CADILLAC lacks the excitement and suspense one would expect to find in a film adaptation of a Stephen King short story. It has a run-of-the-mill made-for-TV-movie quality, and is certainly not in the same league as THE MIST (2007), 1408 (2007), APT PUPIL (1998) or THE NIGHT FLIER (1997) – excellent motion pictures that were all based on short stories or novellas by King.

DOLAN’S CADILLAC is King’s variation on Edgar Allan Poe’s THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO, the classic tale of revenge in which a pesky prankster is walled up alive in a dark alcove, deep in the recesses of an Italian chateau.

Robinson (played by Bentley) is a mild-mannered primary school teacher whose new bride Elizabeth (Vaugier) witnesses the execution of people smugglers and illegal migrant women while horseback riding in the desert. Instead of galloping away to safety, Elizabeth grabs her cellphone and tries to call the police. Naturally, the bad guys see her and start shooting in her general direction. Only then does Elizabeth ride off, dropping her cellphone and making herself easily traceable.

Elizabeth is marked for death when she agrees to testify against the executioner: high-living Las Vegas crime boss Jimmy Dolan (Slater). Dolan made his millions in the human trafficking of sex slaves across the Mexico-U.S. border and will stop at nothing to stay in business and out of prison. Robinson’s faith in police protection is shattered when the mobster succeeds in having Elizabeth killed before she can testify against him (she dies only minutes after informing Robinson she is pregnant!).

Without a witness to the murders carried out by his henchman Chief (Greg Bryk), Dolan walks. He’s a free man and there’s nothing the F.B.I. or the American system of justice can do about it. Robinson’s life unravels and he proceeds to overindulge in booze and pills. After a feeble attempt at payback, Robinson quits his teaching job and – spurred on by visions of his dead wife – plots an ingenious revenge scheme against the gangland kingpin.

However, Dolan is a hard man to reach: he lives in a high-security compound in the penthouse of a Las Vegas hotel and is chauffeured about in a customized, bulletproof Cadillac Escalade that affords him tank-like protection.

Robinson shadows Dolan and becomes familiar with his daily travel routine. Although scrawny and reedy, Robinson manages to get hired by a road construction company and pushes himself beyond the limits of physical endurance to keep up with the beefy, burly crew of roadbuilders. During his off hours, Robinson borrows road construction equipment to dig and conceal a hole with interlocking foam blocks painted black to look like asphalt. The trap is set on a sealed-off stretch of highway… and the hole is large and deep enough to accommodate an armored Cadillac. So Dolan’s Cadillac (cleverly diverted onto the closed road) will become Dolan’s coffin, buried under a lonely highway in the middle of nowhere.

The single redeeming feature of DOLAN’S CADILLAC is an outstanding performance by Christian Slater (who recently starred in the made-in-Ottawa Sacrifice). Despite his sleek appearance, neat threads and funny nasal voice, Slater is thoroughly convincing as a remorseless sex trafficker. Jimmy Dolan is clearly in a line of work that demands a streak of malice and an absence of moral qualms, but he is also animated, philosophical and funny. The villain is more sympathetic than his killer... especially when faced with the reality of his final predicament – entombment in a desolate highway and slow suffocation under layers of dirt and paving stones. These scenes work only because Slater can really “put it across”.

I’m a big fan of Wes Bentley, and enjoyed his stellar work as the deranged parking garage attendant in P2 (2007) and as the serial killer-obsessed amateur filmmaker in THE UNGODLY (2007). However, Bentley is too intense and wild-eyed as the wussy, Caspar Milquetoast-type schoolteacher. Nor is he entirely believable as he transforms into a cunning and merciless avenger. Bentley comes on too strong in the scenes where he lords it over the trapped Jimmy Dolan. At other times he is poker-faced and just can’t seem to get a handle on the role.

If you’re in the mood for a taut revenge flick, skip DOLAN’S CADILLAC. Instead, see THE PUNISHER (2004), PAYBACK (1999) or REVENGE (1990). Or take the wayback machine to 1962 and screen Roger Corman’s TALES OF TERROR. Enjoy THE BLACK CAT segment with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, partly based on Poe’s story of immurement THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO.  These horror icons show that revenge is a dish best served with flair, which sadly is not the case with DOLAN’S CADILLAC, a rather humdrum affair released straight to DVD (Alliance Home Video).

 

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