An eight-cylinder fuel-injected coffin.
I have to admit I had never heard of Dolan’s Cadillac before it arrived on my doorstep for this review. That’s kind of surprising considering it stars famous names Christian Slater (Heathers) and Wes Bentley (Ghost Rider), and it’s based on a short story by Stephen King (Misery). Sure, the title Dolan’s Cadillac doesn’t conjure images of action and suspense, but you could say the same about Christine or From a Buick 8. So why didn’t this movie get a wide theatrical release and a huge marketing push in an attempt to turn it into a major blockbuster? Let’s see…
Robinson (Bentley) is an ordinary middle school teacher living in the southwest. When his wife (Emmanuelle Vaugier) witnesses a murder committed by crimelord Dolan (Slater), Dolan strikes back by killing her before she can testify against him. Robinson descends into madness, and then seeks revenge against Dolan. No easy task, considering Dolan is protected by his bulletproof, nearly invincible Cadillac SUV. To satiate his bloodthirst, Robinson will need more than a powerful handgun. His end game will require heavy construction equipment.
This is a real movie oddity. For your basic crime/revenge plot, there’s certainly a lot of weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Chief among these are some dreamlike narrated sequences meant to show Robinson’s disturbed state of mind. Take this actual dialogue from these scenes, which, astoundingly, is repeated twice in the film:
“He looks like anyone you see on the street. But when he grins, birds fall off telephone lines. When he looks at you a certain way, your prostate goes bad, and your urine burns. The grass yellows up and dies where he spits.”
But hey, filmmakers have to make their work stand out, right? They wouldn’t want this movie to be declared “ordinary” or “run of the mill,” right? So I can forgive weirdness. What I can’t forgive are logistical and narrative inconsistencies that continually make the viewer say, “Wait a minute…” The main offender is how the Dolan character is portrayed. At first, he’s the usual movie gangster, living the high life while treating human beings as mere commodities. Slater plays the character with this detached, laid-back attitude, as if he doesn’t really care about any of this, even though lives and huge amounts of money are on the line. Part of this, I figure, is to make the character all cool, in that he considers himself above all the rest of us. This doesn’t really come across on screen like it should, though. Consider the moment when Dolan leaves a loaded weapon with Robinson and then just turns his back and walks off. This is supposed to demonstrate how badass he is, but instead it just makes him look dumb, like he’s not aware that this choice is going to come back to haunt him, even though it’s obvious to everyone watching at home. At another point, Dolan launches into an angry rant filled with a many racial slurs as the writers can think of. Why would he do this, other than the “weirdness for weirdness’ sake” I mentioned above? I believe the filmmakers are doing that thing where something is horrifying and offensive at first, but then it goes so over the top that it starts to get funny. Too bad that it comes out of nowhere and has little context with the rest of the film. This makes it less “dark comedy” and more “what the heck?”
There are even more narrative conundrums to frustrate viewers. Because this is a revenge movie, it can’t just be revenge, it has to be elaborate revenge. The plan involves Robinson joining a road paving crew, and then helping himself to their equipment, where he secretly constructs his elaborate revenge way out in the desert. So, construction crews just let guys go cruising around in the desert in gigantic bulldozes, with no questions asked? Nice to know. Similarly, Robinson’s wife witnesses the initial murder while out horseback riding…in the middle of the desert…near the U.S./Mexico border…on a middle school teacher’s salary…and so on.
Tech time: Audio and video are good but not spectacular. Extras include a short featurette and some deleted scenes.
Writing this review, I keep coming back to the thought of “I get what the filmmakers are trying to do here, but…” That’s not the reaction anyone should have when watching a movie.