The Austin Chronicle

Red Rock West

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.

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