Black Dog (1998): Breakdown by Rantbo
Swayze drives a tuck, Meat Loaf preaches gospel and shit blows up, real nice like.
The title, Black Dog refers to a occurrence reported by truck drivers that have been pushing too hard, driving too far and being too greedy(?), seeing an angry black dog in the road charging at the rig. Or something. Thankfully, this is not what the movie is about, it’s just the explanation as to why Swayze’s character plowed into some poor bastard on the side of the road and got two years for manslaughter. Apparently the judge wasn’t buying the old ‘hallucinogenic dog jumped through my windshield and ate my drivers license’ excuse. No idea if this phenomenon (bullshit urban legend) is “real” outside of this film and I don’t care enough to spend any time researching it. What I do know is, despite the dumbass backstory (and overall terrible writing), this film was pretty damn entertaining.
The story follows a former truck driver named Jack Crews (Swayze). Jack is an ex-con who just wants to get his life back in order after prison. His plan to achieve this goal involves him driving a shipment of illegal guns across the heartland, without a drivers license. Federal laws, schmederal laws. How else is he expected to buy his daughter those high-top sneakers she needs for playing basketball? Keep a steady day job!? Fuck that noise! Of course, things go un-according to plan (shit gets fucked) when the arms supplier, a bible thumping good-ol-boy named Red (Meat Loaf), decides he’d rather have his shipment back and unleashes a small army of hillbilly truckers to take Crews and Loaf’s former gun runner, Earl (Randy Travis) down and out.
BLACK DOG is essentially the last 20 minutes of MAD MAX II, only with rednecks instead of post-apocalyptic punks. And a shit load of county music. So, the awesome averages out to the middle of the road. The running time is kept under 90 minutes (the perfect Action movie length), so there is very little down time between the high-speed twisted metal high jinks of Crews and his pursuers. In fact, every 15 minutes or so, the film has something filled with diesel fuel blowing the fuck up, and I couldn’t ask for a better ratio from such a low-budget trashy B-Action flick. Better yet, all the wrecks are filmed using REAL vehicles and REAL explosions. Which is really all I could have hoped for. As I mentioned above, the story is pathetic, unoriginal and features one of the craziest deus ex machina endings I’ve seen since PRETTY WOMAN*. BUT, I still found it thoroughly entertaining despite the ludicrous story and mind-numbing soundtrack. I’d recommend it to fans of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, BREAKDOWN and old-school do-it-yourself stunt work. It’s some good ol’ fashion dumb fun. Yee-Haw!
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Patrick Swayze is Jack Crews
“That summa-bitch can drive.”
I’m almost at a loss for words as Swayz-Dog plays a trucker, but doesn’t don his trademark blonde mullet. Of all the times to cut the frock and sport a crew-cut, doing it for a truck driving movie called BLACK DOG seems like a bad choice. To me that title SCREAMS greasy ill-conceived hair. But, despite this crime against logic, Swayze proves yet again that he makes an adequate blue-collar hero. Though nowhere near the level of Dalton (really, what is?), Jack manages to play a memorable-enough trucker, whom I’d place in a list with Jack Burton, Lincoln Hawk and Large Marge. He’d be well after all of those people—but, he’d still be there.
-Been drivin’ trucks since he was 19.
-Out drives a fleet of would-be killers, forcing at least 5 of them to their own incompetent deaths.
-Fights a motorcycle goon on the back of his rig at 80mph.
-Get’s shot in the arm and patches the wound with gunpowder. Which he learned to do in prison.
-And he death races Meat Loaf in a Big-Rig showdown through a dock-side warehouse.
[THE BODY COUNT: 14]
Pretty high, considering 90% of the film takes place in the cab of a big-rig. Of the 14, Crews gets half, mostly indirectly with his mad driving skills. Several more die by their own stupidity in fiery road-side collisions and the rest are off’d in the climactic shoot out at a pier. Nothing too spectacular, but it was far better than I could have hoped for going in.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
Crews vs. Motorcycle Hooligan
Still truckin’ at full speed after an assault by two bikers and a Meat Loaf, Crews notices that he is leaking gas and one of pressure gauges in his truck is failing—Oh, shit! There’s still a guy on the back of the truck, monkey wrenching shit! But, worry not, Jack’s on top of it. Not bothering to stop, let alone slow down, Crews turns the wheel over to another man and hops out the cab to TCB. Once confronted, the Motor-Gremlin and Jack go toe-to-toe in the tiny space in-between the cab and load, all while Meat is taking pop-shots at them from his pick-up.
After several well-placed punches, a body slam or two and a bullet wound to his bicep, Jack manages to hurl the unfortunate biker onto the hood of Mr. Loaf’s truck, sending him careening off the black-top, off a poorly disguised ramp and into a power station, frying the shit out the henchman and totaling the truck in one fell swoop.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
“Damn you, Crews! Your ass is mine!”
Nothing overt, but Truckers are like Cowboys, in that they are a breed of man with a mindset so macho and homophobic, they can’t help but be gay themselves. So much so, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ang Lee goes on to win an Oscar for a BREAKER, BREAKER HIGHWAY. Crews is married and is in fact back behind the eighteen wheels to better support his wife and daughter. And as such, this has to be the straightest character I’ve ever seen Swayze play. As for the rest of the characters, you don’t really get to know them all that well, as the whole movie takes place over the course of 15 hours and most of that is action-based.
Crew’s sidekick, Earl does want to be a country music singer (a stretch for Randy Travis) and spends several character building scenes writing down lyrics in his little diary/song-book. But country singers fall into that whole wanna-be cowboy level of everyday 1900’s reminiscent gay that can be seen in every steak house and truck stop from California to the New York Island. So, again, nothing special.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Jack’s wife and daughter are kidnapped by his boss, who makes threats alluding to murder and molestation of the daughter, but he never makes good on either. I’d say it’s regrettable, but the daughter is only like 10 years old and that would be fucked up and disturbing on a level even I couldn’t get a chuckle out of. As far as kidnapping the hero’s family goes, this one is as tame and un-emotionally scarring as it gets. The bad guys don’t even so much as slap the wife. Man, I miss the 80s.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
EP-M: Crew Hits The Breaks
Before this moment, Jack’s badassitude was in question, but shortly after learning that he’s been double-crossed and is being pursued by a two man hit squad, the question gets answered in the affirmative. Crew’s backup is taking heavy hits in their car and get rammed into a horizontal position and pushed down the highway. Quick with the think, Crew tells his comrades via radio to hit the gas the second the badguys lay off to build up momentum. They do, and succeed in becoming a red cape, as their would be hijackers fly through the open air and straight into the back of Crew’s haul as he slams on his breaks…
Agent McClaren: “You know, I’m sensing a lot of hostility here, Alan. There’s no reason to get defensive.”
FBI Agent Alan Ford: “You’ve got yourself a dead driver and a moot little shipment of guns, but you DON’T have the seller and you DON’T have the buyer! All you’ve done is shown the man we’re on to him!
ATF—What does that stand for anyway!? Alcohol, Tobacco and FUCK UPS!?”
Agent McClaren: “Definitely a LOT of hostility. ”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Meat Loaf should be in more movies.
[THE CHECKLIST: 17 outta 25]
[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[X] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
Black Dog (1998) © Black Dog Productions, Universal Pictures and Universal Home Entertainment
*Not that I’ve ever seen it…