The sight of an 18-wheeler bearing down, as seen through a rearview mirror, is one of the great movie images of menace; the shot launched Steven Spielberg’s career 27 years ago in Duel. But director Kevin Hooks’ big rigs go nowhere, fast. Black Dog (Universal) asks the timeless question: If you were a postfeminist trucker with a loving wife and sweet daughter, and if your house was being foreclosed for want of $9,000 — oh, and if you had recently served time for vehicular manslaughter — would you risk it all for dough and agree to transport contraband even though you know you’ll be pursued by bad guys, the FBI, and the ATF?
If you’re Patrick Swayze, apparently, you would. Wincing with sensitive manliness, he battles various poorly shaven ne’er-do-wells, including Meat Loaf as an evil hijacker who — surprise — quotes Scripture, while competing law enforcers (Charles Dutton and Stephen Tobolowsky) pursue like Shakespearean fools. As a fellow trucker, country singer Randy Travis starts out a wary adversary, then eventually becomes an ally, and he dang near croons all the way through. Additional crass cliches include a truck crashing through a mobile home (trash-on-trash crime?) and, crassest of all, the wife and daughter threatened at gunpoint. Time to give that scenario the brake. D