Monday, May 02, 2011

Stephen King Month: Dolan's Cadillac (2009)

In recent years, Stephen King adaptations seem to have fallen out of favor at the movies (although the upcoming movie version of The Stand and Ron Howard's epic movie/TV adaptation of the Dark Tower books may change that), and buying up the movie rights to a King work isn't the guaranteed success that it maybe once was. So instead of high-profile studio releases, we get more movies like Dolan's Cadillac, a low-budget and low-quality thriller based on a short story from King's 1993 collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. Cadillac didn't even make it to theaters in the U.S., although it did in some other countries. Here, it slipped onto DVD mostly unnoticed, another cheapo vehicle for C-list stars Christian Slater and Wes Bentley. Both are out of their depth as, respectively, a ruthless gangster and the formerly mild-mannered schoolteacher who plots elaborate revenge on him.

Director Jeff Beesley and screenwriter Richard Dooling go overboard making Dolan into the most despicable of criminals, engaged in human trafficking (first of women, then of children) and callously offing anyone who poses a threat. That includes the absurdly saintly fiancee of Bentley's character -- she agrees to testify against Dolan after witnessing one of his operations, and of course as soon as she discovers that she's pregnant, her car blows up. Bentley's Robinson decides it's time for payback. but this isn't some Steven Seagal movie, so he mostly just broods and follows Dolan around with a pained look on his face. King's original story is all about the psychological torment leading up to the revenge plan, and his characters are both much older and much more calculating. But obviously thought processes aren't very cinematic, so Beesley and Dooling invent a whole criminal empire for Dolan (who's very loosely sketched in the story).

The problem is that Slater makes for pretty much the least threatening gangster of all time, and the more they try to make him seem menacing, the sillier he appears. Bentley is worse, scrunching his face up in a lame approximation of grief and completely failing to convey the conflicted emotions of his character. For some reason, Dolan is prone to spouting pseudo-profound pronouncements (some of which are lifted from other King works), but then is just as often vulgar and crude, as if the filmmakers can't decide what kind of personality to give him. The actual showdown between Robinson and Dolan doesn't happen until nearly the end of the movie, and it's pretty disappointing. This is more of a thriller than a horror movie, but King at least conveyed something genuinely unsettling with his story. The movie version is just a joke.

How far to Castle Rock: We're in the desert between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, mostly, so the little Maine town doesn't get a mention.

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