Stephen King is one of the most popular authors in the world. Many of his stories have been turned into movies. Some of those have been really good (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) and some have been really bad (Sleepwalkers, Graveyard Shift) The newest King story turned into a movie is the direct-to-DVD release Dolan’s Cadillac.
It is based on a short story by the same name in King’s 1993 collection of short stories Nightmares and Dreamscapes.
Robinson (Wes Bentley, Ghostrider) and his wife Elizabeth (Emmanuelle Vaugier, TV’s CSI: NY) are schoolteachers in Nevada. One day, Elizabeth witnesses a terrible crime, which instantly turns her into a target for a Las Vegas crime boss known only as Dolan (Christian Slater).
After Elizabeth is eventually killed, Robinson nearly has a breakdown and revenge consumes his mind. In time, Robinson comes up with a plan, thanks to watching and studying Dolan’s every move over a period of time, that he feels will finally give him the retribution that he has been desperately seeking for so long.
The screenplay for Dolan’s Cadillac is written by Richard Dooling. He is no stranger to Stephen King material. He was a writer for a few episodes of King’s 2004 TV series Kingdom Hospital, which was cancelled after just 13 episodes. Dooling’s adaptation of King’s short story is just about as successful. It is severely lacking in detail that King’s original story had.
In the story, Robinson watched Dolan for seven years before he came up with his plan. In Dooling’s version, it feels like the events of the story play-out in just a few weeks. This shortening of the time line negates the connection the viewer has with Robinson that King masterfully created in his story.
When reading Dolan’s Cadillac, you can feel and appreciate Robinson’s anguish to a much greater extent. Also King’s story, gives a great deal more description when Robinson put his plan into action, but Dooling’s writing just glosses over this integral part. The amount of preparation that Robinson’s plan requires is extensive, which perfectly allows the reader to grasp the deep desperation that Robinson has to get even with Dolan. The viewer is denied this understanding by Dooling’s deemphasized variation.
Canadian director Jeff Beesley deserves some blame as well. His directing fails to elevate Dooling’s lackluster script. Beesley does not offer us anything (editing, lighting, music, etc.) that could have helped improve this movie that was based on an intriguing short story.
Wes Bentley’s performance as a husband filled with sorrow and pain about his dead wife is unconvincing. Bentley seems to have the same “dimwitted” expression on his face throughout the whole movie before and after Elizabeth dies. His acting does not draw the viewer in. He does show some flashes of believability when he has Dolan where he finally wants him, but it’s not enough to save his otherwise underachieving performance.
The shinning light in Dolan’s Cadillac is Christian Slater. He is perfect as the cold-hearted crime boss. The viewer can feel his smugness when he feels he is on top of the world and they can take great pleasure in seeing him plead for his life like a little bug would right before you push the button on your big can of bug spray.
While Dolan’s Cadillac is far from being one of Stephen King’s worst film adaptations, it is likewise far away from being one of his best too.
Dolan’s Cadillac is currently available on DVD.