August 5, 2011

Black Cadillac (2003)

"Three young men become terrorized in a high-speed car chase with a mysterious pursuant."

It's been quite a while since I last watched "Black Cadillac" but I always thought it was very enjoyable in spite of being derivative of just about every other thriller involving a car.

I'm sure "Black Cadillac" borrowed from far more "trapped in a car with a murderer" movies than I had ever seen at the time since the word on the street (yes, I know) was that it wasn't a very good film at all. Was I so fooled by Randy Quaid's performance that I liked "Black Cadillac" more than I should? Maybe, but I'm allowed to be subjective occasionally too.

The thing is, we didn't really need another "automobile horror" movie in 2003. "The Hitcher II" and "Highwaymen" both appeared on the video rental shelves at the same time and, even though they were quite awful, I think "Black Cadillac" was mostly overlooked by the horror crowd because it was a teen movie and a very "talky" one at that. More people were likely to go for the supernatural horror of "Dead End" than watch a bogus "based on true events" story starring a load of TV actors that they'd never heard of.

Another thing which I think put a lot of people off watching "Black Cadillac" was the original artwork on the DVD (or VHS) sleeve. It looked like a mixture of "Scream" at the top and "Christine" at the bottom. There's nothing that puts potential viewers off more than a movie which looks like it can't make up its mind which audience it's aiming for.

To put it bluntly, I would have left this on the shelf myself too due to having absolutely no interest in cars. In 2003, I was all about my motorcycles and if someone had put out a horror movie about them, I would have been all over it. I still don't know why I decided to rent "Black Cadillac" but I do know why I went back and bought an ex-rental copy of it a few months later. It was great.

The plot of "Black Cadillac" may have been borrowed, the acting wasn't always the best, the continuity was noticeably lacking, and the characters weren't that appealing to begin with but, somehow, none of that mattered to me as the story developed. The boys, apart from the arrogant Scott (Shane Johnson), were surprisingly realistic and the dialogue was clever. Some people may describe it as witty (and it was) but this wasn't quite up there with anything Joss Whedon would do.

The relationship between the three guys (who all give away the fact that they are too old for their parts if you look closely enough) was extremely well written and the scar-faced, Pez-eating smartass, C.J. (Josh Hammond), really stood out. Even the Shia LaBeouf lookalike, Robby (Jason Dohring), had his moments. These were all characters that I could care about even though, curiously, it was impossible to have anything in common with them.

"Black Cadillac" started out like another version of "The Car" (1977), turned briefly into "The Hitcher" (1986), then seemed to be a lot like "Duel" (1971) and "Joyride" (2001). There was even a moment where it turned into "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997). Finally copping out with a simple "crime of passion" ending, let an otherwise very good thriller down.

Of course, there were other flaws among all this borrowing. The car chases were exciting but unrealistic, the atmosphere wasn't always as tense as it could have been, and there were a lot of plot holes which, ultimately, were the difference between "Black Cadillac" being a fantastic film or just an average one.

Having just rewatched it, I still recommend "Black Cadillac". For a film which relied mostly on dialogue, I rate this quite highly. It's enough of a psychological thriller with decent character development to make you think that you've watched something a lot better than it really was. It's just a pity that it wasn't really a horror movie.

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