The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dolan's Cadillac (2009)

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Do to the amount of positive response we received after we reviewed the Christian Slater film Lies and Illusions, I couldn't wait to get another one of his films up. I went with Dolan's Cadillac because, in addition to Slater, it has Wes Bentley, Emanuelle Vaugier, and it was written by Mainer Stephen King. Oh yeah, and it's available on Watch Instantly, another plus.

Dolan's Cadillac is about a couple, Bentley and Vaugier, who work as teachers in small town Nevada. Vaugier witnesses the murders of a cargo of women trafficked by Slater, and Slater has her killed so she can't testify. This, understandably, sends Bentley's life spiralling out of control in a wave of depression, booze, drugs, and insanity. He starts seeing images of his dead wife, and thinks she's telling him to kill Slater to avenge her death. He buys a gun and plots out the murder, only to have it fail. Slater beats him severely for this, but instead of killing him, tells him leaving him alive would be a harsher sentence because he's such a weakling. As he's about give up on everything, he's taken by the FBI to see the bodies of the women his wife saw murdered exhumed from where Slater buried them, and he gets an idea...

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I liked this. I wasn't expecting to, but I did. It's probably been twenty-five years or so since a Stephen King story was made into a movie I liked, so this was a pleasant surprise. The problem is, I haven't read the story (in fact I haven't read much Stephen King), so I have no idea where King ends and the people who adapted it for the screen begin. Was it King who created the amazing juxtaposition of Bentley's crusade to avenge his wife-- a wife who is ultimately just one woman-- with all the nameless women Slater's trafficked into the country and treats like cattle-- maybe worse than cattle. It gave the whole film a level of depth we seldom see in a DTV indie suspense movie. On top of that, Bentley and Slater give excellent performances, and Vaugier does her part in being not only very beautiful, but also a strong and independent woman, which allows us to believe it when Bentley goes nuts after she dies. Throughout all their scenes together, it's Bentley who's so afraid to lose Vaugier, and it's Vaugier who sees herself as no better than anyone else. In fact, she's the only person who gets that juxtaposition the film uses to create depth that I mentioned above. On the other hand, while it was a quality story, it also felt long, even at 88 minutes. Around the 45 minute mark I thought I was like 75 minutes in, which made the rest of the film feel that much longer. If you think you can manage that, you'll be okay.

Before I go much further, I should discuss Slater's job, because he's the number one reason I watched this and you're seeing the review of it up here. It's fascinating, because I want to compare him to Cuba Gooding Jr., just because both were big, and now both not only do DTV movies, but they do the same types. Why is it, then, that Slater seems so at home in these films, and Gooding's parts seem so forced? Maybe because Gooding had further to fall than Slater did, and if I sense any anger and resentment in Gooding's performances, it's probably justified. I mean, I don't have as large a sample size to go with, but in just two movies, I've felt better about what I've seen from Slater. Again, maybe I shouldn't be comparing the two.

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Emmanuelle Vaugier is back, after too long of an absence, when we reviewed the Uwe Boll pain fest Far Cry. Calling her a hottie is a total understatement, but I think focusing on her looks (which is easy to do), unfairly neglects what a great job she did. As much as Bentley's character subtly tried to put her in a glass case because he was afraid (as it turned out rightly so) something would happen to her, she needed to, just as subtly, not so much free herself from his need, but act like she didn't see herself as someone needing to be in a glass case. It's not that her character doesn't know how hot she is, it's that she doesn't think that should make her any more important than all the unfortunate woman who met horrific deaths at Slater's hands.

I went to some of the message boards on imdb to see if I could discern where King's book ends and the movie begins, and instead all I could find were toolbags bemoaning how the film didn't do King's fantastic literary prowess justice. Please help me. First off, if his story is so different, maybe it actually wasn't that great, and you toolbags only liked it because it had the name Stephen King attached to it, because the story in this movie was very solid. Surreal, perhaps, but that just enhanced it. Being from Maine and having gone to UMaine, King is quite a big deal. I'm not sure anyone does a better job of taking the isolation of so much of the state, and making it frightening. On the other hand, he's no Faulkner, or Joyce, or even Philip Roth, and I'm sure he'd be the first to tell everyone that. He's a commercial fiction writer who is very good at what he does-- don't go looking at movies made of his films and write them off if they aren't word for word adaptations. In most cases-- and probably this one in particular-- it was done to make the film more watchable, and at 88 minutes, this film was still a little slow.

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We had a chance to look at Wes Bentley when he played Blackheart in Ghost Rider. I was wondering why he didn't have a lot of films to his credit, so I looked up the trivia on him, and found out he told the New York Times that he'd spent most of the 2000s seriously addicted to drugs and only worked to make money so he could buy more. I guess that would explain it then. Hopefully, as he gets things back in order, people will see him in films like this, and he'll get more and better roles, because he was great here.

Especially since it's available on Watch Instantly, Dolan's Cadillac is well worth looking at. In terms of a revenge flick, it's not anything like the bad action shoot 'em ups we're used to at the DTVC, so don't go into it looking for that. Think more indie suspense thriller with a Stephen King twist, starring Christian Slater, Wes Bentley, and Emmanuelle Vaugier. On the other hand, even at 88 minutes, it does feel long, so keep that in mind as well if you're giving this a spin.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0963965/

8 comments:

  1. It's difficult to comment on a film you were so-so on. I mean it doesn't move you enough to really go into details really and I wasn't all that impressed. Yet I didn't hate it either. Slater was good, but he was too young for the part in my opinion. (Stallone was originally wanted) In anycase it was okay but nothing special. I really don't know how to say it.

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  2. I definitely don't think Stallone would've been better than Slater. Had this been made 20 years ago, Dolan would've been played by Robert Loggia. I'd say Miguel Ferrer would've been the perfect person for the role now.

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  3. Yeah Slater maybe good at playing many roles, but there's no way I can buy him as a mobster, personally I think either Chazz Palminterri or Paul Sorvino would've been much more convincing in that role.

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  4. He wasn't playing a mobster, though, and certainly not an Italian. Remember, he's Jimmy Dolan, which means he's of Irish descent. He was just supposed to represent evil in a very manic, Stephen King sort of way. Think more Bill Paxon and Jack Nicholson, and less Armand Assante. That's what Slater brought. I think I may have forgotten that point too when I suggested Ferrer could've played him better.

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  5. Something came up preventing you from reviewing Hard Boiled and The Killer...Probably the loan sharks.

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  6. Hey man just wondering, are you going to review Uwe Boll's new film-Rampage? I just saw it today, and i'll admit i'm not easily disturbed by most movies-but Rampage is one of the most powerful, shocking and visceral films I have ever seen(and that's including films like Saving Private Ryan, Blood Diamond, Tears Of The Sun, We Were Soldiers, etc)-even Uwe Boll's most ardetn critics agree that it's a geninely good film. But be warned, it's not a film for the faint of heart.

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  7. I enjoyed this, beleivable flick. Slater was great, and the giant pot-hole was original and clever. I hear Slater and Cuba Gooding, Jr. are heading up a new DTV-er, called "Sacrifice". A cop drama. Any thoughts?

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  8. Yes, it's been a five day adventure to secure funds to get them off my back.

    I hadn't planned to do Rampage, but consideirng Netflix has it on Watch Instantly, it is a possibility, as DVD rentals are at a premium right now with the Hong Kong cinema series.

    And another Slater Gooding Jr. DTV flick is definitely something I'll keep on my radar. Thanks for pointing it out Phil.

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