It's a gorgeous road trip set to a rousing truckers' score with a running commentary about "frying the brakes" and the technicalities of jackknifing.

BLACK DOG

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Black Dog" is a truck movie. It may also be about tractors, trains, helicopters, and fireballs, but it is primarily a movie for truck lovers. If your eyes light up at the thought of the swing weight of a loaded trailer, or the burn-out point for brakes on a downhill run, then you will love this movie. I am that kind of person, and that is why I found it perfectly easy to transcend an inherent aversion to action blockbusters and join Patrick Swayze as he runs a load of guns from Atlanta to New Jersey.

The movie is wonderfully simpleminded. It commands us, by sheer force of noise, to join in the fun with an opening scene of a helicopter following a drive-off between two Mustangs and a dump truck. Shipping crates fly through the air and break open to reveal contraband cargo. The FBI and ATF (yes, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms) converge in mutual enmity just in time to watch the whole scene go up in flames. They have a dead driver and the illegal cargo. What they don't have is the buyer or the seller. Jack Crews (Patrick Swayze) has managed to move his wife Melanie (Brenda Strong) and daughter Tracy (Erin Broderick) out of Newark to a better neighborhood, but they're behind on the mortgage payments. Jack, you see, has just served a two-year term for Vehicular Homicide after an accident brought on by his sighting of the mythical "black dog" that bedevils exhausted drivers who don't pull over before their senses desert them.

The prospect of a forced return to Newark leads Jack to say "yes" to bad guy Cutler (Graham Beckel), who offers a big fee for a delivery of Chinese assault rifles (somebody had to replace the Russians). It will take some mighty heroics from Jack to overcome both a vigilant parole officer and the lack of a driver's license.

Jack heads north in a spectacular rig accompanied by Randy Travis as Earl, a hostile passenger. Followed by a Bible-spouting pit bull of a pursuer named Red (Meatloaf), the cool, collected Jack fights off his enemies down seven miles of the Interstate while passersby become road kill. So grand is the big black rig that I don't even want to wonder how it was filmed, remembering well how "Casablanca" was diminished by the revelation that the romantic plane was a mere six-foot model, serviced on the tarmac by midgets to create the illusion when the B-movie had run out of money.

What saves the movie? It's a gorgeous road trip set to a rousing truckers' score with a running commentary about "frying the brakes" and the technicalities of jackknifing. Patrick Swayze is the truckers' John Wayne, cauterizing his own wound with gunpowder, driving with the hellbent cool and skill of a master driver. It's a country western for people who love trucks. And it sure beats moving back to Newark.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Universal Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h45m


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