[Screen It]


(1998) (Patrick Swayze, Randy Travis) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Mild Extreme *Moderate Extreme
Mild None Moderate None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
None Mild Mild Minor Extreme

Action/Adventure: A professional truck driver, who lost his license and went to prison after a fatal accident, is forced back behind the wheel to deliver an illegal shipment of guns to the man who's holding his family hostage.
Jack Crews (PATRICK SWAYZE), a former professional truck driver, has just been paroled from prison where he was serving a two-year term for accidental vehicular manslaughter. Unable to find anything other than a low paying, dead end job, Jack finds himself facing foreclosure on his home. Wanting to save it and support his wife, Melanie (BRENDA STRONG), and daughter, Tracy (ERIN BRODENCK), he accepts an "off the books" job from his boss, Cutler (GRAHAM BECKEL), that pays ten thousand dollars, which is just enough to save his home.

Agreeing to drive an unspecified cargo from Atlanta back to New Jersey, Jack arrives in the southern town where he meets Cutler's Bible quoting partner, Red (MEAT LOAF). Meeting Earl (RANDY TRAVIS), a wannabe country songwriter who will ride shotgun, and escorts Sonny (GABRIEL CASSEUS) and Wes (BRIAN VINCENT), who'll follow in a Camaro, Jack gets behind the wheel of his large rig and heads north.

Unbeknownst to them, Red is planning to double-cross Cutler and hijack the cargo -- a shipment of illegally imported weapons and ammo -- for himself. Sending armed men to take the rig, Red is surprised at Jack's ability to avoid being captured. After receiving a call from Jack who's upset about all of this, Cutler kidnaps Melanie and Tracy to insure that Jack delivers him the goods. What they also don't know is that FBI Agent Allen Ford (CHARLES DUTTON) and ATF Agent McClaren (STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY) are tracking the rig's every move, and are planning on nabbing everyone involved.

From that point on, Jack and his companions must avoid the repeated attempts by Red and his crew to hijack the rig, all while on the watch out for the Black Dog, a mysterious nighttime apparition that plagues overworked truckers and caused Jack's earlier accident that changed his life forever.

If they're fans of someone in the cast or of action films, they might, but it's doubtful this film will draw in many viewers, no matter what their age.
The reason wasn't available, but we'd guess it was for one brief use of language (the "f" word) and repeated violence.
  • PATRICK SWAYZE plays a former truck driver who was imprisoned for accidental vehicular manslaughter. He agrees to take a driving job -- despite knowing that he's breaking the law and his parole conditions -- but does so to save his house from foreclosure and to provide for his wife and daughter.
  • MEAT LOAF plays a cigar smoking, Bible quoting man who tries to kill Jack and the others so that he can hijack the shipment of guns for himself.
  • RANDY TRAVIS plays a wannabe songwriter who accompanies Jack on his trip.
  • GRAHAM BECKEL plays Jack's corrupt boss who's not only receiving an illegal shipment of weapons, but who also takes Jack's wife and daughter hostage.
  • GABRIEL CASSEUS plays another man who accompanies Jack and his team and who smokes while doing so.


    OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
    Just when you thought it might be safe to travel back to the theaters in the belief that the spectacular, but inane car chases and resulting crashes so commonly found in films from the 1970's and 80's had abated, along comes "Black Dog." While the title might fool you into believing that this is some sort of Old Yeller flick, think again. Instead of cars flying through the air, into other vehicles, or somersaulting down the road, this film has substituted big rigs for that job.

    Yes, we're talking about tractor trailer trucks running other trucks and cars off the road, smashing, crashing and blowing up, and flying, spinning and cartwheeling through the air in such a manner that you'd think they were made out of balsa wood and not actually weigh fifty or sixty thousand pounds each. Director Kevin Hooks ("Passenger 57") and screenwriters William Mickelberry & Dan Vining have simply lifted the plot from "Smokey And The Bandit," switched the beer for guns, replaced Jackie Gleason with Meat Loaf and a Camaro for the Trans Am, removed nearly any trace of humor or fun, and wrecked many more vehicles in the process.

    Oh yeah, Patrick Swayze ("Dirty Dancing," "Point Break") replaces Burt Reynolds and instead of a wisecracking, good ol' boy, he plays a stoically stiff parolee -- but that probably has something to do with the corrugated cardboard from which his character has been molded. While he's obviously playing the subdued, "everyday" man, the absence of Swayze's normal charisma hurts the film. Sure he looks determined all of the time and fights some of the bad guys, but we never really root for him. Of course that's because Hooks has focused so much energy on crashing those trucks that there was little left with which to motivate Swayze's, or anyone else's performance.

    Randy Travis, better known as the popular country singer, but who also appeared in "The Rainmaker" and "Fire Down Below," fares a little better as a wannabe country songwriter and awful singer (Hint: That's the film's idea of humor). Another singer, Meat Loaf, (who appeared in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Leap of Faith"), fares worse in a horribly wooden role as the villain (typical dialogue: "Damn you. You're finished Crews. Your ass is mine") who likes to quote the Bible and cut out coupons (another attempt at humor).

    Charles Dutton and Stephen Tobolowsky are wasted as bickering rival federal agents in a subplot that does nothing for the movie other than offer the standard black guy/white guy "opposites" team with Tobolowsky's character continually trying to psychoanalyze Dutton's (repeatedly annoying and continually failing attempts at humor).

    For a film trying to be a thriller, this picture certainly picked the wrong equipment. While tractor trailers provide for more spectacular crashes than do their smaller relative, the car (simply due to the presence of more metal and tires -- particularly after twisting and flying through the air), their lumbering nature doesn't create for very exciting scenes. Another problem is the villain's motivation. Since Red had the weapons and the truck from the beginning, why not just keep the goods from the start instead of letting Jack drive off and then waste a lot of time and energy trying to hijack them?

    Well, that's because if they did that the filmmakers wouldn't have a movie and therefore couldn't waste the audience's time and energy. And if you're wondering why the title "Black Dog," and why there's so much emphasis on that canine apparition when nothing ever comes of it, well, we can't tell you because we don't know. I suppose, though, that it sounded better than "Truck Crash" or "Black Day At The Box Office For This Dog." If the notion of seeing lots of trucks getting mangled in spectacular ways sounds enticing to you, go for it. Otherwise, you'd be best to skip this less than thrilling picture that we give just a 2 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the film's content. 1 "f" word and an assortment of others give the category a heavy rating, while the many gun battles and truck crashes give both the guns/weapons and violence categories extreme ratings. Obviously all of the villains have bad attitudes, and some viewers may not like one of them repeatedly quoting Bible scriptures. Despite the high amount of violence, the film isn't that bloody, nor is it very suspenseful (unless you're very young or don't see many similar films or videos). While it's doubtful many kids (or anyone else for that matter) will want to see this film, you may want to look through the scene listings in case someone in your home does.

  • Some of Red's men drink beer.
  • One of Jack's crew is shoot and later dies and his shirt is bloody.
  • Jack's arm is quite bloody after a bullet grazes him.
  • Red has a little bit of blood on his face after crashing his truck.
  • The side of Jack's mouth is just a little bloody after fighting someone.
  • Cutler has both as he not only manipulates Jack into driving an illegal shipment of guns ("The way I see it, you only need a license if you get pulled over"), but he then kidnaps Jack's wife and daughter to insure the delivery of those weapons.
  • Red and his men have both as they try to hijack that shipment of guns and repeatedly try to kill Jack and his companions while doing so. Also, some viewers may not like that fact the Red often quotes scripture from the Bible (as if he's a religious man).
  • One of the men with Jack turns out to be working with Red and is informing him of Jack's moves.
  • The following is more action-oriented suspense than scary suspense. Thus, while some viewers may find it somewhat tense, others might not.
  • Viewers may also find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense as well.
  • Jack has a brief nightmare about the mysterious black dog that caused his earlier wreck (it's not overly scary, but young kids might find it that way).
  • Jack and his crew are nearly "caught" at a weigh station on the interstate by officials inspecting their truck.
  • A man tries to get at Melanie through her door, but she just manages to close it. He then kicks in the door and chases her and Tracy through the house (while holding a gun) until they're eventually caught.
  • Jack dangles from the side of his truck while one guy tries to shoot him, as does Red who also tries to crash his truck into Jack.
  • There's a little bit of a quick, spooky scene as Earl talks about the legend of the black dog and we see Jack's memory of it. We then see this dog running down the highway and leaping toward Jack's truck (seen from inside the truck).
  • There's a big standoff between Cutler and his men (who have Melanie and Tracy as their hostages) and Jack and the federal agents.
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Machine guns: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence for details.
  • Jack and his crew transport a truckload full of weapons, and an earlier scene has a man doing the same.
  • Phrases: "F*ck ups," "Sh*thead," "Eat sh*t," "Sorry ass," "Take a leak" and "Piss," "Screwed up," "Fart," "Suckers," "Shut up" and what sounded like "Balls" (testicles).
  • Wes purposefully throws a can out the car window at a no littering sign. Later, Earl takes Wes' juice box and throws it out the window.
  • None.
  • There is a moderate amount of action-oriented and dramatically suspenseful music during the movie.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word, 7 "s" words, 11 damns, 10 hells, 5 asses, 4 S.O.B.'s, and 2 uses each of "G- damn" and "Jesus" and 1 use each of "Oh my God" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • None.
  • Sonny smokes several times.
  • Red smokes a cigar several times.
  • Some of Red's men also smoke and one of them puts chewing tobacco in his mouth.
  • Jack and his wife feel the strain of him just being paroled and the bank foreclosing on their home, and she isn't happy about him taking another trucking job.
  • Jack must contend with his boss kidnaping his wife and daughter.
  • People who drive trucks for a living -- and whether the "black dog" story is made up for this movie or is a real life myth.
  • Agent Ford and others chase a truck that crashes into many other vehicles before the gas leaking from it ignites, causing the truck to explode and killing the driver inside (implied).
  • Some people drive up and shoot shotguns at Sonny and Wes' Camaro, blowing out the back window. They then repeatedly smack their car against the Camaro. Later, they fire at Jack's truck and he tries to run them off the road. Eventually, he slams on the brakes, the bad guys crash into the back of the truck and their car explodes, killing them.
  • A man tries to get at Melanie through her door, but she just manages to close it. He then kicks in the door and chases her and Tracy through the house (while holding a gun) until they're eventually caught.
  • After knocking the Camaro off the road, three trucks box in Jack's truck. They push and crash into each other, resulting in one careening down a hill and crashing, with another crashing into a car on the highway. Another crashes into a fuel tanker at a gas station, blowing it and the driver up, while the other finally crashes through a mobile home and cartwheels down the highway.
  • Earl and Sonny hold their guns on Wes who aims his gun at them during a standoff. Sonny eventually kicks and hits Wes, disarming him.
  • Two men on motorcycles drive up and fire machine guns at Jack's truck. One of them crashes and cartwheels through the air, while the other hops on the truck and exchanges gunfire with Earl who he eventually hits with a chain. Meanwhile Red shows up and fires his gun at the truck. One of Jack's crew is eventually shot, and Jack fights with the man behind the cab and they throw many punches, and the guy fires his machine gun at him again. Red then tries to smash into Jack who's holding onto the side of the truck and then fires a shot that grazes Jack's arm. Eventually, Jack tosses the other man onto Red's windshield causing him to crash (and the other guy is presumably killed).
  • Cutler's men and the F.B.I. agents get into a shootout where several people are shot and wounded and others are presumably killed.
  • Jack fights with one of the bad guys, Melanie bites the arm of another and Jack then fights this guy with many punches being thrown.
  • Another truck battle follows where the driver is eventually killed in an explosion.

  • Reviewed April 30, 1998

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