Road to Ruin
There are certain qualities a proper Stephen King adaptation should possess -- none of which Dolan's Cadillac seems concerned with. The best films drawn from King's works, like Carrie and Salem's Lot, reflect his inclination to place nightmares both plausible and fantastic on an equal plane. The former applies more to Dolan's Cadillac, which is an average revenge saga rather than a nightmarish slideshow King would be better served sharing with his therapist. But in the pantheon of films about that chilliest of dishes, this petulant thriller warps a true tale of anguish into one of the most grating screaming contests seen on any size screen.
The Robinsons, Tom (Wes Bentley) and Elizabeth (Emmanuelle Vaugier), are destined to live in happiness forever -- or at least until the second act. While out on an innocent horseback ride in the desert, Elizabeth runs afoul of vicious gangster Jimmy Dolan (Christian Slater) and witnesses his human trafficking trade in action. Elizabeth heads into federal custody with her hubby, only to meet a bitter end when Dolan's thugs catch up. His life spiraling into self-destruction, Tom resolves to get back at his wife's killers, a task easier said than done (at least without a montage involved). With an army of loyal flunkies and the titular deathmobile at the ready, Dolan is one sleazebag who can't be rubbed out easily, forcing Tom to rely on his dark side to carry out his mission of vengeance.
I can't figure out whether Dolan's Cadillac is trying too hard or not hard enough -- and the problem is, neither can the movie. It's a story depending more or less on the director's personal stamp, having been told too often to be a sure thing anymore. Short of filming the whole thing in Esperanto, it's hard to screw up with the work of a writer with King's stature, but director Jeff Beesley sure finds a way. Coming off a good run of Canadian TV gigs, Beeseley nonetheless arrives with a flair for subtlety similar to what one might see in "Days of Our Lives" marathons. So many actors who should know better shout and dramatically pose as if their paychecks depended on it -- which, after surveying the film's sub-Cinemax gloss, wasn't enough to be worth the trouble. Half the time, you'll swear you're watching a silent film with the sound flipped on, had Beesley not padded out the running time with enough editing frivolities to fuel Salvador Dali's fevered dreams.
With a film like Dolan's Cadillac, assigning blame for dramatic failure is tricky business. The acting appears as inconsistent as the plotting, and a director who slams the MTV button if things get rough helps no one. Bentley isn't horrible, handling most of his scenes well, at least whenever the script isn't batting his character around. Slater, meanwhile, finds himself at the forefront of a cinematic swindle worthy of Bernie Madoff. Great effort is spent building up Dolan as the Charles Foster Kane of mobsters, a crime boss of mythic proportions, only to deliver a whining wuss who wouldn't even scare Bugsy Malone. The two men come to a head at the climax, during which a resolution to Tom's emotional fracas gets replaced with a prolonged torture porn finale you'd think Hollywood would've moved on from by now.
I cringe thinking about how many souls will slog through Dolan's Cadillac. With King's name and a couple of familiar faces attached, it's tough to pass up, especially without a theatrical run to warn the villagers.
MY RATING: * 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by Film Bridge International and rated "R" for violence and language.)