Let’s make this long story slightly shorter. There’s a guy. He’s married. His wife is killed. He wants revenge. He spends a long time trying to get it. He either gets it or he doesn’t. The end. Did I just sum up a lot of movies? Well, if you think I did, then you’ll realize how easy it is to summarize Dolan’s Cadillac, a film that has nothing special going for it apart from the fact that it’s loosely based on a short story by Steven King.
In this case, the guy is named Tom Robinson (Wes Bentley). He and his wife, Elizabeth (Emmanuelle Vaugier), are both teachers. This means we think they’re good people. I mean, teachers are supposed to be good, right? Anyway, the first day we meet them, we learn that Elizabeth rides horses, as she tells her husband she’ll be out riding instead of coming home for dinner. He doesn’t think this is suspicious, so I assumed it’s a common occurrence. If this was a drama, she might go cheat on him instead of ride around the countryside.
While riding, she notes that there is a vehicle with a trailer pulled over on the side of the road. It’s approached by a Cadillac. Those of you who pay attention will note that the title of the film also mentions a Cadillac. We conclude that a man named Dolan (Christian Slater) owns this vehicle, and since we first see him after tilting up from his shoes as he gets out of his car. He promptly shoots the people in the car ahead of him. Elizabeth is shocked by this, although instead of running away, she pulls out her phone. I’m not sure if she was going to take a picture or call the police. The back of the trailer is opened, and we see a bunch of people gasping for air. Some of them are dead. One tries to run right to where Elizabeth is. She gets shot, and Elizabeth runs off, dropping her cell phone in the process.
Eventually, after much time and a pretty stupid decision, Elizabeth is killed and Tom wants revenge on the man who did it (presumably that person is Dolan). So he buys a gun, stalks Dolan for a while, stalks him for even more time, and eventually things happen and a conclusion is reached. I won’t give away whether or not he succeeds, but I will say that he takes an incredibly long time to actually attempt his revenge.
He buys a gun right away. The biggest gun he can possibly buy and still wield. We even see him shoot it at a range for the first time, and the recoil sends him on his backside. He’s not a person who is ready to kill, and at one point, the two characters have a confrontation and Dolan tells Tom exactly this.
What does this mean for us? Well, it means that we spend a great deal of time waiting for something to happen, but nothing does for far too long of a time. This would work if the film itself was thrilling and kept us engaged, but I was nodding off for a large portion of it. There’s even a point when Dolan gets trapped by Tom, but even after this happened, we had to wait what felt like hours for anything to come of it. (I think it was only about 30-45 minutes, but it certainly felt longer.)
For a revenge film to work, we need something apart from the revenge to hold our attention. Do we care about the main character? Can we see that his quest is tearing him apart? Is the villain interesting, and do we really want to see him die? In this film, all of those questions can be answered with an emphatic “I don’t care.” The main character is supposed to be Tom, although he’s basically your generic good guy who wants to do right for his wife. Right after her death, he starts abusing drugs and alcohol, but soon enough, he’s fine. He even gets beat up at one point, and then goes to his job the next day, functioning almost perfectly apart from pushing his papers off his desk. If this is supposed to be an intriguing guy, then I’m not seeing it.
Then there’s the villain, Dolan. Apart from having a pretty nice car, which we find out is bulletproof, he has more charisma than Tom. At least he had somewhat of a personality, despite the fact that he’s a sex slave trafficker. I mean, I know that he’s the bad guy, but since he made me laugh a few times, I didn’t really want to see him die. His interactions with his cronies were probably the highlights, simply because of the was his character was written and the way he describes the world around him.
This poses a problem when the final confrontation occurs. Do I want to see this bland, lifeless character who just happens to be a schoolteacher win? Or do I want to see the character who managed to make me laugh, even if he’s not supposed to be likable? This conflict of interests was more interesting than the film that contained it, and this is not indicative of a good film. Neither character is complex, so it’s not like I’m indecisive because they both contain good and bad elements. No, I know who is the good man and who’s bad, but in terms of being entertained, the bad guy satisfied that desire far more often.
There’s a reason that Dolan’s Cadillac went direct-to-DVD. It simply isn’t all that good, even if it doesn’t have a completely unknown cast. It simply fails at thrilling or entertaining its audience, as it doesn’t feature a lead character who we can root for. I didn’t care if he got his revenge, and at times, I actually wanted to see him fail, just because the bad guy made me laugh more. This isn’t a good film, and it doesn’t deserve your 90 minutes.