Dolan’s Cadillac

Dolan’s Cadillac is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the Stephen King short story of the same name, from his excellent compilation Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It’s a story I truly enjoyed, but it probably never should have been adapted into a film. Because yiiiikes! This baby is incoherent!

Wes Bentley (remember him? From American Beauty?) plays Robinson, a middle school government teacher married to the beautiful Elizabeth, played by Emmanuelle Vaugier.  Vaugier has had small roles in some of my favorite shows (Smallville, Veronica Mars, Supernatural) and I’ve always wanted to see her tackle a meatier role. Not necessarily because she’s a phenomenal actress (uhm, she isn’t), but because holy crap she’s pretty!

Robinson and Elizabeth are happily working on the conception of their first child and generally living the dream when she happens upon the transport of human trafficking “cargo” by crime boss Jimmy Dolan (Christian Slater). After Elizabeth witnesses his execution of a woman trying to escape, Dolan tracks her down and blows her up, despite federal protection. Dolan’s wily and easily avoids prosecution, and Robinson is left to contrive the most elaborately magnificent revenge scheme in retribution history. I’d really, really like to spoil this plan for you, because DAMN Stephen King is a genius! But as the film’s faithful portrayal of the bad-ass vengeance is one of the only things going for it (other than the pretty lady, that is!), I won’t.

Christian Slater attempts to make up for the fact that we haven’t seen him since the 90s by combining every performance he’s ever wanted to give and shoving it into this one role. He’s kind of awesome, mostly ridiculous, chews up the scenery like it’s Big League bubble gum and pretty much just makes me feel kind of sorry for him. He really tried, you guys! He does more than his usual Nicholson-light here! He just zooms right over “more” into “way too much” territory and I found myself cringing a few times. For that, I think I rather liked him. Dolan’s a big role and that stout Stephen King dialogue (and the ceaseless racial slurs that sound entirely invented) would curl up and die in a lesser man’s mouth.

Like maybe….THIS MAN!

Wes Bentley is completely ineffectual in this role. I always thought he never got famous after American Beauty because, you know, we already have a Toby Maguire. And we even have a second Toby Maguire, named Jake Gyllenhaal. But as it turns out, Bentley also just kind of sucks. Robinson’s feelings of impotent wrath and his mounting desperation for reckoning make for a serious performance, and Bentley is simply not up to the task. I also suspect that he pretty much doesn’t care? Even during the ultimate scene of vengeance, he’s entirely lackadaisical. It’s a disconcerting acting choice, to say the least. His voice-over is made of utter WTFery. I suspect the bit about birds falling off telephone lines whenever Dolan grins is lifted straight from the story, although I can’t remember for sure.  But King’s mouthy and unlikely dialogue works on paper; not so much when Maguillenhaal The Lesser marbles-mouths his way through them.

Dolan’s Cadillac is also hurt by that trippy, wild 90s editing that needs to be laid to rest now, okay everyone? No more spin-cam and quick edits that look like they were lifted straight out of Go.  Can we all agree to that, please? The film is cut into these weird little vignettes, incohesive scenes that fade in and out and seem to have nothing to do with one another. The short story is somewhat like that, as Robinson reflects on the various actions that have brought him to this fate, but it comes off as abrupt and accidental here. Beesley and screenwriter Richard Dooling update the original story by turning generic crime boss Dolan into the more specifically abhorrent human trafficker and they add some tech stuff that works fairly well.

Greg Bryk does a nice job as Dolan’s philosophical henchman, Chief. I found his performance to be subtly engrossing amidst all the schlock. I’m rather running out of things to say about this, so I think I’m going to throw in the towel. Dolan’s Cadillac is by no means an abortion of a perfect little short story, but the film is mostly tedious and uneven and included such non-King-sanctioned lines as “It tears me to pieces to think about how you tore my wife to pieces.” Yowza. Do yourself a favor and skip it, even if it is free-streaming on Netflix.

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4 Responses to “Dolan’s Cadillac”

  1. hmmm. next time i need a christian slater fix, i think i’ll stick with “heathers.” or his second-greatest work, “pump up the volume.”

    also THANK you for solving the mystery of “what ever happened to that dude from ‘american beauty’?” not that i was losing sleep over it, but still.

  2. I would argue that our second Toby Maguire is Topher Grace. Although I don’t want to punch Topher Grace in the face so much.

    Um, I know that this is a bad movie. But you’ve kind of made me want to see it. I’m sorry! I just love crappy movies! (p.s. remind me that we have to watch the smokers someday!)

  3. Damnit, you know I’m gonna watch it now that I know it’s on netflix streaming! Why would you include that detail if you wanted to protect me (us) from it?!? I will blame you through my tears (of boredom) as I watch this crap instead of sleeping.

  4. I’m with you Marla. The only thing I really liked about this movie was Dolan’s henchman. He did a great job and I really liked the character. He had the perfect monotone delivery for letting you know that he was basically repeating Dolan’s rants back to him as a way of “showing agreement.”

    I think the problem is that Dolan’s Cadillac is a captivating short story but it ends there. The film version just seems like it has a lot of dead space. Oh well, what can you do?

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