Me and Lil’ Stevie’s
Sixth Annual Holiday Turkey Shoot
Takes Aim at DOLAN’S CADILLAC (2009)
Review by Peter N. Dudar
(EXTERIOR/DAY: Establishing shot of a long desert highway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The sun is beaming down hard from overhead, casting a long shadow off a stretch-Limousine heading westbound. Camera zooms in on the tires as rubber connects first with scalding asphalt, and then with dirt and stone as the limo takes a detour. Camera cranes up to the tinted windows, and from behind the glass we can hear…Christmas music. Overhead shot shows the limo’s sun roof, reflecting the burning sun above but slowly scooting open. The song is obviously that crappy one about the second-rate singer helping a little boy purchase Christmas shoes for his dying mom. The window opens all the way and we see a hulking figure holding a ventriloquist dummy in the shape of MASTER OF HORROR, Stephen King.)
PETER: (Scrambling to climb out) Ack!!! Let me out! I freaking HATE this time of year.
LIL’ STEVIE: Aw, sit down, ya big sissy. I can turn the radio off anytime I want. Look! I’ve got the remote control right here…
(LIL’ STEVIE changes the station, and Nickelback comes on.)
PETER: Noooooooo! You’re making it worse! Gimme that remote!
(PETER turns off the radio and closes the overhead window.)
PETER: There, that’s better. It’s the holidays, Constant Viewer, and we all know what that means…
LIL’ STEVIE: We sure do! This is the time of year we save for reviewing what we consider to be a turkey adaptation of Mr. King’s works, and then we officially put it out of its misery so that it never bothers an innocent Constant Viewer again.
PETER: Egg-xactly! And for this year’s Turkey Shoot sacrifice, we’re offering the 2009 Jeff Beesley film, DOLAN’S CADILLAC.
LIL’ STEVIE: Based on my novella from my 1993 collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I based the story loosely around Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Cask of Amontillado”, which…
PETER: Save it. This ain’t about you, unless you plan on joining the turkey at the end. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, if you haven’t heard of Jeff Beesley before, it’s because he’s strictly a Canadian TV producer/director with very little in his film oeuvre. This film was HIS ticket to the big time, working with some notable actors on a Stephen King adaptation, but nearly a decade later, the guy is still an unknown. A quick look on Rotten Tomatoes puts DOLAN’S CADILLAC at 31%, which I thought was actually being generous, so Mr. Beesley’s going to have to keep plugging.
LIL’ STEVIE: Go back to Canada, eh!
PETER: The story concerns a young man named Robinson (Wes Bentley, THE HUNGER GAMES, 2012), a good-looking, but kind of wimpy, schoolteacher out for revenge against the criminal Jimmy Dolan (Christian Slater, TRUE ROMANCE, 1993) for murdering his lovely wife, Elizabeth (Emmanuelle Vaugier, SAW II, 2005). Simple premise, really, but we should probably take into consideration that it’s based on a novelette, and screenwriter Richard Dooling (who also contributed to the short-run 2004 KINGDOM HOSPITAL, which was also created by King) had to fill in some fiction to stretch the adaptation into a feature length film. The movie begins with a morose, recently-widowed Robinson offering a narration on how he came to be alone in the ghost of his old house, and how he planned on getting revenge.
LIL’ STEVIE: He and his lovely wife were trying to conceive a baby. Maybe I should have offered to give him a few pointers…
PETER: So, on one fateful afternoon, Elizabeth decides she just needs to go horseback riding out in the desert…
LIL’ STEVIE: On a horse with no name!
PETER: Shut up, you! While she’s out on her ride, she sees a van crossing the border (filled with Latina women, who are being smuggled into the country as sex slaves). The van meets with another vehicle, Dolan’s Cadillac, and the criminal abruptly has the truck driver and all the remaining women shot to death over a double-cross. Dolan sees Elizabeth up on the ridge, but she manages to get away before she can be shot, too.
LIL’ STEVIE: Fairly close to my story so far…
PETER: She and Robinson go to the police to give a statement, and the investigator offers to put the couple in protective custody until they can recover the bodies (which have mysteriously vanished) and take Dolan into custody. Of course, they’re never going to pin it on Dolan. He’s much too suave and sophisticated for that. In fact, his goons find the couple very easily. In fact, they’re parked right outside the hotel, waiting for her to step foot outside.
LIL’ STEVIE: Here comes the wrinkle! Elizabeth wakes up puking with morning sickness and rushes to the bathroom. She suddenly realizes she might finally be pregnant, but she’s out of those little test sticks that womenfolk need to pee on to…
PETER: They get it! So, the smart, brave woman who married spineless Robinson breaks quarantine to run out and buy a pregnancy kit, and, of course, Dolan’s goons have her car wired to explode.
LIL’ STEVIE: Kerflooey!
LIL’ STEVIE: That’s onomatopoeia, cuz. But your neophyte azz wouldn’t know that.
PETER: You sound nothing like the REAL Stephen King, you know. Anyway, the prosecuting attorney seems to think he can take Dolan down, but that ain’t good enough for Robinson. No, our spineless hero decides his wife’s death is the turning point where his sack finally drops and he becomes a man. Robinson visits a gun shop, looking to buy the biggest, deadliest weapon he can find, and walks out with a hand canon about the size of his forearm. He also starts following Dolan on his jaunts to and from the west coast, trying to get into the guy’s head and figure out a plan for dusting the creep.
LIL’ STEVIE: And that’s all wrong from how I wrote it in my story. In my novelette, Robinson isn’t even a young, newlywed dude with dashing good looks and slick black hair. In fact, Robinson is a middle-aged, balding man, and the first thing he does is to get back to the gym to get into shape again. My novelette felt more like ROCKY, where the story isn’t just about revenge but about the “Arc of Descent,” a colorful phrase that is supposed to talk about Dolan’s car falling into the pending trap about to be set, but also the character arc Robinson takes into madness as he makes his plan and sees it through.
PETER: That’s pretty deep.
LIL’ STEVIE: That’s double-entendre, cuz. You sure are a wet-end sometimes.
PETER: So Robinson is following Dolan in his Caddy, but Dolan wises up that he’s being shadowed. The cat-and-mouse game gets ugly when Dolan surprises Robinson in a rest stop men’s room and has his lackey kick the holy crap out of him. Afterward, Dolan tells Robinson he’s letting him live because he knows Robinson is a coward and that pretty much makes him Dolan’s bitch.
LIL’ STEVIE: Which also never happens in my story. In fact, Dolan’s character is an old man in my story—a classy John Gotti kind of mafiosa goon. I’m not even sure how Christian Slater was cast. In fact, it’s my understanding that Dolan was supposed to be played by Sylvester Stallone.
PETER: I heard that, too. But we’re way behind deadline and I don’t have time to Google and verify, so you can take that tidbit as speculation. That would have been amazing to see Stallone in this role. Slater comes across as a hot-headed Jack Nicholson wannabe, and that can be irritating sometimes. Robinson crawls back to his home to nurse his wounds, and by now he’s getting visits from his ghostly wife, who looks less like she’s been blown up and more like she’s been ravaged by a street gang. She becomes his “revenge coach” and helps him formulate a new plan. The next thing you know, Robinson is signing up to work a summer job with the Nevada Highway crew. He goes into to the boss’s office, and Blocker (Tony Munch, CUBE ZERO, 2004) essentially laughs in his face for wanting to spend his summer getting burned under the desert sun.
LIL’ STEVIE: You ain’t strong, baby. Get outta my face!
PETER: But Robinson strong-arms him in a bet, using his granddaddy’s gold pocket watch as collateral, insisting that he can get through the summer without quitting or passing out on the job.
LIL’ STEVIE: Which was why Robinson went back to the gym to start working out in my story. He knew he was old and out of shape. That was the beauty of his character arc. Everyone LOVES an underdog, especially in a revenge story.
PETER: Robinson goes to work with the road crew, and even though the sun and the hard work does beat the hell out of him, he never quits. Eventually, Blocker takes pity on him and gives him a job driving the bucket loader, and that’s going to come in handy.
LIL’ STEVIE: Because Robinson has decided he’s going to bury Dolan AND his stupid Cadillac under an unpaved stretch of highway between Vegas and Los Angeles.
PETER: The rest is basically Poe’s “Amantillado.” Hero traps villain and buries him alive, driving the antagonist into realms of insanity long before death takes him. The problem is that Beesley’s version is slow and predictable and utterly boring as hell. And the filler material that was added to the screenplay to make it feature-length only detracted from the film. Robinson’s plan works in the end, but he’s still a dorky, spineless jerk that left me wondering what Elizabeth ever saw in him in the first place.
LIL’ STEVIE (Shaking his head sadly): Yeah, that’s what happens when they stray from my source material. They ALWAYS think they know better than me.
PETER: DOLAN’S CADILLAC never transcends what should have been a made-for-television movie. The whole formula of throwing a young, attractive cast into a story built around average, everyday people severs any empathy or ties to reality that King’s source material works so hard to accomplish. Like we said before, the story isn’t as much about revenge as it is about character arcs. It’s Rocky Balboa training not to win, but to go the distance.
LIL’ STEVIE: Do we have anything positive to say about it?
PETER: Of course! I may have knocked Slater earlier, but the truth is that he gives good crazy, and once Dolan’s Cadillac crashes into the hole in the ground where Robinson means to bury him, Slater gives a chillingly realistic portrayal of a guy who knows he’s totally screwed and going to die, and watching him interact with Robinson as he bargains and begs and violently fights for his life is almost sublime, but not enough to save this sinking ship. Let’s face it; this film should have been a stepping stone to further Beesley’s career, but it seems as if he tripped over it and fell flat on his face. The acting was mediocre at best, the parts that were supposed to be scary just seemed silly, and it never lived up to the drama that King captured in his written work. There was NOTHING satisfying about this film. I’m not even sure if it was a theatrical release or went directly to video. If it was in theaters, it came and went faster than a senator in a by-the-hour motel. Does that cover it?
LIL’ STEVIE: Sure does. Tell the driver to pull over and we’ll put this turkey out of its misery.
(PETER pushes the button to lower the partition, and gasps when he sees who’s driving the car. It’s actually the boss, L.L. SOARES.)
SOARES: Whaddaya want?
PETER: Can you pull us over so we can take care of business?
SOARES: You need to take a leak? If you can hold it, there’s a rest area up ahead.
LIL’ STEVIE: C’mon, man…you know we have to shoot this lame bird so nobody else has to suffer through it.
SOARES: Can I do it? I’m a good shot, you know.
PETER: If you really want to. But it’s not like you sat through it and suffered like WE did.
SOARES: I could always fire you…
PETER: You win.
(SOARES pulls the limo over, grabs a shotgun, and opens the door.)
SOARES: Here, turkey turkey turkey.
(The DVD of DOLAN’S CADILLAC pops up from behind a sand dune.)
DOLAN’S CADILLAC: Gobble, gobble, gobble.
(SOARES lifts the shotgun up to his chin, takes aim, and pulls the trigger.)
(The DVD explodes into thousands of tiny fragments.)
SOARES: That was fun. No wonder you love doing the Holiday Turkey Shoot.
LIL’ STEVIE: Actually, Peter is terrified the REAL Stephen King reads these and hates his guts.
PETER: Am not!
LIL’ STEVIE: Are too!
SOARES: EVERYONE gets a bad review now and then. You can’t please everybody. If you gave the movie a fair shake and it was sub-par, then it is what it is. It’s all subjective. Mayhap some people love this movie. Mayhap they don’t. I’m just surprised you didn’t review THE DARK TOWER.
PETER: Oh, it crossed my mind. That’s one for somewhere in the New Year.
SOARES: By the way, you can tell Dudar wrote my dialogue because I would never say the word “Mayhap.”
(To PETER): Now get the hell out of my car, you two deadbeats. I need to be in Tijuana by noon.
(PETER and LIL’ STEVIE climb out and watch the Limousine roll away.)
LIL’ STEVIE: Wow, THAT guy has no ‘holiday spirit’.
PETER: Yeah, but he’s one suave SOB. C’mon. Let’s get back into town before the wolves come out. This is the same stretch of area from DESPERATION, you know.
LIL’ STEVIE: Happy Holidays, Constant Viewers. Thanks for checking in. We’ll see you in 2018!
© Copyright 2017 by Peter N. Dudar