May 042010
 

Dolan’s Cadillac is a film about grief, and revenge; it was adapted from a short story (with the same name) which was written by Stephen King; and concerns a man named Robinson (Wes Bentley, American Beauty), whose wife gets murdered shortly after agreeing to testify against a sex trafficker called Jimmy Dolan (Christian Slater, Very Bad Things), whom she saw murder a couple of mexican coyotes (people smugglers), and a whole truck load of immigrant women.

Needless to say, Robinson’s life takes a bit of a downward turn after his wife Elizabeth (Emmanuelle Vaugier, 40 Days and 40 Nights) agrees to testify; first being moved into protective custody, becoming a virtual shut-in, and finally witnessing his, probably pregnant, wife die before his eyes; so it’s no surprise that he turns to booze and pain pills after it all goes wrong, and the F.B.I. can’t find one piece to evidence to connect Dolan to the whole mess.

So after having a bit of a breakdown, Robinson becomes obsessed with Dolan; going so far as to track his movements and traveling patterns; and eventually buys a gun that makes Dirty Harry’s look like a water pistol, with the intention of using it to end the life of Las Vegas’ most ruthless criminal (Dolan).

However what makes this film interesting, is that unlike a Mad Max, or Taken, type of film (where the hero is an expert with weapons, and dives straight in killing all of the bad guys henchmen with ease on their way to the top dog) Robinson is the epitome of a wet blanket; as he’s about as far from a policeman, or retired special forces operative, as can be; he’s a primary school teacher who looks like he’s barely had a crossed word with anyone, let alone a fight; and so when he plans to kill Dolan, it’s as a result of the deep emotional pain that he is obviously feeling (and being haunted by the ghost of his, formerly living, wife probably doesn’t help), but that doesn’t suddenly give him ability, as he’s terrified the entire time, and in real danger.

And as Dolan has managed to avoid arrest and imprisonment at the hands of the police for so many years, as well as death at the hands of his well armed, more experienced, rivals, killing him will be no mean feat; which leads Robinson (after an extremely tense encounter where Dolan realizes what’s going on) to come up with an ingenious plan to solve the problem, and end Dolan’s life; a solution that will take months of work, planning, and a strong will to execute.

There aren’t many people filling out the cast, as aside from Robinson and Dolan, the only noteworthy people are an F.B.I. agent (played by Al Sapienza of The Sopranos), Dolan’s bodyguard (Greg Bryk, Saw V), and Robinson’s wife Elizabeth; all of whom play their respective parts adequately, but none of whom really shine through or own their roles in any way.

Likewise Wes Bentley (Robinson) isn’t entirely convincing in his role, and while he does seem really broken up after the death of his on-screen wife, he can’t quite pull off the full range of emotions needed to bring the character to life; excelling at the wet-fish emotional scenes, but failing to appear as determined, and angry, as Robinson needs to get to complete his mission.

The shining star of the film however has to be Christian Slater, who is outstanding, and completely believable in in role as a hardened sex trafficker with few moral qualms. He can appear very hard and cocky, having a clearly visible malicious streak, but also reserved and saddened by some of the things that his profession leads him to see, through the subtlest of facial movements, and seems genuinely terrified at the thought of his final predicament. An all round great performance, that outshines everyone else on the picture, and is made more interesting by the unusual philosophical murmurings of his character.

The Stephen King element is present all throughout the story; through the visions of the dead wife (which thankfully are not presented as all that supernatural, but more like the delusions and memories of Robinson played out in a visual context), and the fairly gruesome way in which Robinson plans to kill his wife’s murderer; and makes it not only interesting, but adds a sense of awe and tension to the story that make it solidly entertaining.

This movie was originally planned to be released several years ago, with Kevin Bacon (Stir of Echoes) and Sylvester Stallone (Rambo) taking the lead roles, and although no-one can really say how that would have turned out, this type of short-story turned film suits having a somewhat lesser cast (although Bacon would have probably made a much more convincing Robinson) and lower budget, as even though the direction was nothing special, the tone and feel of the short story remains in tact, and Dolan’s Cadillac remains a thoroughly interesting, clever, and somewhat darkly engrossing, film that should entertain anyone that likes a decent revenge thriller.

Picture:

Dolan’s Cadillac is presented via a full 1080p transfer that is well above average for most direct-to-video releases; the colour levels and variety of hues depends on the locations, as the neon plastered shots of Las Vegas (some of which are unfortunately reused several times) provide a much more rich and vivid image than the barren desert landscapes that make up the majority of the film’s latter half, but no matter what the locations, all of the colours are well represented, natural looking, and never over-saturated.

The picture may be a little noisy for some viewers, but thankfully the grain doesn’t hamper object detail at all, as the fine detail really brings to life textures in the actor’s faces, their clothing, and the landscape as a whole, as well as providing the image with a decent sense of depth; as do the rather inky and deep black levels.

It’s true that Dolan’s Cadillac doesn’t have the best picture quality ever, and is extremely unlikely to be used as a reference quality piece by anyone, but considering the low-budget, direct-to-video, nature of the film, it comes in with a quality higher than one would expect, and a solid presentation that actually enhances the overall feel of the film.

Audio:

Less impressive however is the film’s 5.1 DTS HD-MA soundtrack, which actually sounds a little flat; Dolan’s Cadillac isn’t an action movie, which means anyone expecting a mind-blowing  array of gunfights and other surrounds would be suitably disappointed, and as it’s a thriller with very few action scenes it relies most heavily on the dialogue, which is actually amped up and favoured just a little too highly in this mix; sometimes to the detriment of the environmental effects.

The bass used is suitably deep and natural sounding, and when the surrounds channels come into play their use is very strong; the only problem is that their isn’t enough use of them for ambient noises, and that they are only employed in the more obvious scenes, in order to make a bigger impact (which they actually do quite well, and sound very good). Dialogue itself (despite being overly favoured) is also well represented, weighty, and natural sounding, as well as being well placed and easily intelligible.

Overall the mix has no obvious flaws, and represents the sounds that it has fairly well, it just could have used a little more surround sound, and have benefitted from favouring the dialogue a little less so that the environmental effects would have shone through. It’s an adequate, although not thoroughly engaging mix, that accurately tells the story, but won’t wow any listeners.

Extras:

The bonus features on this disc are also anything but special, as they consist of a making of (titled Behind the Wheel of Dolan’s Cadillac); that isn’t the most in-depth look at filmmaking ever seen, but covers pretty much all aspects of the production, and talks about the themes of revenge, and the task of adapting Stephen King’s original short story, as well as what first interested the cast to their particular roles; and a feature entitled B-roll; that consisted of snippets of behind the scenes footage showing the cast and crew setting up and preparing for some of their upcoming scenes.

The making of featurette is both well made and easy to watch, and does provide a good deal of interesting information; making it well worth a watch for any of the film’s fans, or people that liked the original story; but the B-roll feature is basically a waste of time, as it is lengthy for a feature of that nature (clocking in at nearly 20 minutes), and extremely dull.

The making of should interest a number of people, but this is a film that really could have benefitted from receiving an audio commentary, an effects featurette, and some other smaller features (possibly breaking down the last half of the movie, concerning Robinson’s plan, and the challenges in realizing it), but as it stands, this is a fairly poor showing, with only one real feature included.

The Bottom Line:

Summing up, Dolan’s Cadillac is a film that will interest anyone who likes Stephen King stories, or the films based on them (people who like film’s like The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, or Misery), and appeal to anyone who likes a good revenge thriller (the likes of Mad Max, or The Punisher); as this is a very clever story, with some truly tense moments where it is really difficult to tell exactly which way the story is going to go, and Robinson’s plan is both cleverly sick, and terrifying, enough to make it really worth a watch.

Aside from Christian Slater’s solid performance, the acting and direction of the film is nothing to shout about, the audio quality isn’t the best around, and the extras are far from extensive, but the picture quality is extremely high for a direct-to-video film, and it’s failings as a disc shouldn’t distract anyone from the interesting and slightly different plot.

It’s not all running and gunning like Taken style revenge films, but has a determined character thinking up a well thought out way to solve his problems, and is made all the more interesting due to the fact that he is so out of his element, and seems more likely to get killed than to succeed. Dolan’s Cadillac does have its failings, but it’s a decent story, that proves to be a solidly interesting watch, a great performance from Christian Slater, and even though the Blu-ray disc might not be top quality, the film itself is still very good; at least worth renting, for anyone who likes a touch of Stephen King, or a new(ish) revenge story.