Black Dog

Newcity Chicago

DIRECTED BY: Kevin Hooks

REVIEWED: 05-11-98

What's in the back of Patrick Swayze's Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler? "Toilets," says Red, a Bible-quoting truck yard owner played one-dimensionally by Meat Loaf. "Five-gallon flush." There's lots of this redneck poetry in "Black Dog," and a few good action sequences, but it's not enough to make the movie worth it, except maybe for true fans of Swayze or the genre (guilty on both counts, by the way). Swayze plays Jack Crews, a trucker who lost his license and did time in prison after he zoned out on a long trip and drove his eighteen-wheeler into a disabled vehicle, killing a woman. He saw "the black dog" that tragic night: when truckers push too hard and drive too long, as Crews' fellow trucker Earl (Randy Travis, goofily endearing as a wannabe country singer) explains midway through, "the black dog comes to take everything away from you." Sure enough, the bank is about to foreclose on Crews' house. So Crews signs on to haul one load of contraband (there's guns in them there toilets) up from Georgia, earn $10,000, and fly the straight and narrow-if he doesn't get killed first. Cutler (Graham Beckel) is a slimy, mildly amusing adversary, but what this movie really lacks is the truly psychopathic villainy of, say, Gary Oldman or Dennis Hopper or the late, lamented J.T. Walsh in "Breakdown," with its smashing tractor-trailer-as-weapon climactic twist that tops all the pyrotechnics of "Black Dog." Brian Vincent and Gabriel Casseus have some good lines as a pair of gun-runners; Stephen Tobolowsky and Charles Dutton play a detective duo whose tiring, movie-long New Age shtick sets up one marginal joke. Like a long ride through the Midwest, "Black Dog" offers moments of entertainment, but too many long stretches where you start rustling in your seat.

--Sam Jemielity

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