Black Dog

*

It's been quite a while since there was a good trucking movie, and the streak doesn't change with Black Dog.

Jack Crews (Patrick Swayze) is an ex-con trying to make ends meet. Imprisoned several years earlier for involuntary manslaughter, he has lost his livelihood: his trucking license. Now he relies on a lowly mechanic's job to provide for his wife (Brenda Strong) and daughter.

That is, until his boss (Graham Beckel), offers him an illegal trucking run up the east coast which will solve all his financial problems. Reluctantly, Jack agrees, and soon he's on the road with three suspicious characters: Earl (Randy Travis), Sonny (Gabriel Casseus) and Wes (Brian Vincent).

His trucking run is far from easy. He's dogged at every turn by a pair of federal agents (Charles S. Dutton and Stephen Tobolowsky), and a group of inept hijackers who are trying to seize his cargo. And with each mile Jack gets closer to home, the stakes grow higher and higher.

The film itself is named for a trucker's superstition. Just when everything is going good...if you push yourself too far, a black dog will appear and take everything away from you. However, it also happens to be an unfortunately apt title to place on this dog of a movie.

For the record, there are a couple of good truck stunts in the film, but not nearly enough to make this worth watching. Most of the film is packed with "character defining" moments which serve little purpose except to make the dismal characters more annoying than they previously were.

The movie actually doesn't sink to its lowest depths until the finale. Just when you think the movie can't get any more contrived, it continues to surprise you.

Patrick Swayze tackles the everyman-trucker role with gusto, but this material is beneath him. Of the rest of the cast, only Gabriel Casseus creates a somewhat likable character. Dutton and Tobolowsky never fall into the easy repartee which their comic-relief roles require. The additions of Randy Travis and Meat Loaf (as Jack's Atlanta connection, Red) seem like pure stunt casting.

There may be worse films out there, but that's little consolation. Your time would be better spent watching The World's Deadliest Truck Chases on television.

[PG-13 - intense scenes of action violence, and for language] (Universal)


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