Red Rock West

1993 Directed by John Dahl. Starring Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, J.t. Walsh, Timothy Carhart, Dan Shor, Dwight Yoakam.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 4, 1994

More proof that American film noir is still alive and kicking (probably gutshot, eh?). Red Rock West feels like a Jim Thompson novel, looks like Joel and Ethan Coen's Blood Simple, and packs more twisty Southern California double crosses in 98 minutes than anything I've seen in a long time. Hangdog Cage is Michael Williams, a down and out Vietnam vet who rolls into the town of Red Rock one night hoping to find some work. At the local bar, the proprietor (Walsh) mistakes him for the Texas hitman contracted to murder his wife (Boyle) and offers Michael $5,000 to do the job. More than a little confused, Michael half-heartedly accepts the job (he's down to his last two bucks at this point), drives out to Walsh's house and decides he doesn't want any part of the scheme. Instead, he informs the wife about her husband's plans and instantly finds himself with another $5000 in his hand to pull a number on the husband. Whew! From that point on, the film rockets ahead, with Cage driving in and out of Red Rock, repeatedly on the run from the cops, the real assassin (Hopper, in the same role he's been playing for the last decade), and various others. Dahl keeps this dark film farily light with touches of macabre humor and Cage's goofy, bewildered expressions (his face carries a permanent cast that seems to say, “How did I get myself into this mess?”). Boyle and Walsh are creepily evil as the feuding couple with a tangled past, and hey, isn't that Dwight Yoakam as a truck driver? The real star of Red Rock West is the convoluted plot, as twisty as any backroad out south of Bakersfield and with a hell of a lot fewer p(l)otholes.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More John Dahl Films
You Kill Me
Cuddlier and more charming, this alcoholic-hit-man comedy isn’t your typical John Dahl noir, but it is offbeat, lovably deadpan, and just tart enough.

Marrit Ingman, July 13, 2007

The Great Raid
The single dullest war film of the past decade from the once promising director John Dahl.

Marc Savlov, Aug. 12, 2005

More by Marc Savlov
Jiu Jitsu
No jiu jitsu, and not enough Nic Cage in this Predator rip-off

Nov. 20, 2020

Mortal
Norwegian attempt to reclaim old myths from Marvel is Brightburn 2.0

Nov. 13, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Red Rock West, John Dahl, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, J.t. Walsh, Timothy Carhart, Dan Shor, Dwight Yoakam

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle