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This is an excellent modern-day film noir...."excellent" in that it's
interesting, start-to-finish. There are some holes in here and some
goofy parts that make you shake your head in disbelief.....but I
haven't found anyone who didn't get caught up in this story. The movie
has the right amount of action, suspense, plot twists and interesting
characters. In addition, it sports some nice colors and cinematography
plus a good guitar-based soundtrack.
I labeled this crime movie a "film noir" because it's gritty and the all the characters are no good. Even the only supposed-good guy, played by Nicholas Cage, gets himself in trouble by lying and has a quick affair he should't have. He also does something at the end which isn't right, but I'm not going the spoil it by saying. Suffice to say, however, that the rest of the characters are so bad they make Cage look good!
Speaking of "bad guys," does anyone do it better than Dennis Hopper? Not many. At least in the "deranged" category, he's tough to beat. Lara Flynn Boyle is fun to watch for a bunch of reasons. J.T. Walsh gives another great supporting performance, too.
This is one of those films that never got much publicity, but it should have. You'll have fun watching this. By the way, try saying the name of this movie out loud three times fast without messing it up!
Vaguely reminiscent of great 1940's westerns, like "The Treasure Of The
Sierra Madre" (1948), "Red Rock West" is a story about conscience,
greed, and betrayal. Michael (Nicolas Cage) is a down and out, but
honest, young man from Texas who goes west in search of work and money.
He finds both, but not in the way he had expected.
The film's screenplay contains plenty of surprises and plot twists. Excellent cinematography, adroit film editing, and moody western music add tension and suspense. The expansiveness of the big sky country provides a wonderful setting. And the acting ranges from good to excellent, with great performances from Dennis Hopper and J.T. Walsh. Dwight Yoakam's specially recorded country/western song provides the film with a strong finale.
Correctly labeled as neo-noir, "Red Rock West" strikes me as being something else, as well. The plot is full of amazing coincidences and improbable timing, so much so that others may regard the screenplay as flawed. Ordinarily, I would agree. In this case, however, when combined with the moody atmosphere, and the fact that the small town of Red Rock seems almost empty of normal daily life, the coincidences and unlikely timing suggest a story that, beyond "noirish", is ... surreal. It's almost as if fate deliberately intervenes with improbable events so as to force Michael to come to grips with himself. From this point of view, the coincidences are not script flaws at all. They are necessary plot points in a nightmarish story of a young man who must confront his own demons ... disguised as other characters.
All we need here is Rod Serling, in a postscript, explaining, in his always clearly enunciated voice, that ... a young man, searching for himself, stops in a small, almost deserted town a thousand miles from nowhere. It's his final layover in a journey to ... the twilight zone.
In any number of films, you can find Nicholas Cage as a strong, silent hero, Dennis Hopper as a homicidal maniac, Lara Flynn Boyle as a vamp/tramp, and the late, lamented J.T. Walsh as the heavy. These are the types of roles these four can play in their sleep, and they have done so often enough that to see them playing them again borders on cliche. What a relief, therefore, that John Dahl, a master at getting a lot of mood out of a little action, directed this nuanced noirish thriller. Hopper manages to keep from going over the top, Cage shows a little more depth than his usually-superficial action heroes, Boyle is by turns sultry, innocent, and scheming, and one gets a sense of the hard iron of the soul that is central to his character, Wayne. Dahl's direction gives a sense of the emptiness of the Big Sky country where the story takes place while also being intimate enough to show how a wrinkled brow can indicate a radical change of plot in store. The plot twists are top-notch, and one of the other great twists in this movie is that some of the supporting characters actually act as if they have brains. It isn't often that minor characters like deputy sheriffs have more brains than their headlining superiors. But with a director as smart as Dahl, you shouldn't be surprised by the intelligence of anything connected with this film. An excellent movie.
Red Rock West is what all films should be like. A genuinely interesting film with enough twists and turns to satisfy any sane human, it was tragically overlooked on its release. With Nicolas Cage (before his career went into orbit) in fine form and Dennis Hopper stealing scene after scene, this is a movie that withstands repeated watchings. The rest of the cast are uniformly excellent and the quirkiness of the setting (a small town in the middle of nowhere) never gets in the way. In short this is a great little film that deserves to be seen.
Let's address the elephant in the room first, the movie is boring and Hopper is a dreadful actor. The movie even for its short length is boring. The other main problem is the phoniness of the script. What is this the Twilight Zone? He just cannot get out of town; everything works so he is trapped there. Only one other movie tried this and it is even worse than this: Oliver Stone's stink bomb U Turn. That film makes his Natural Born Killers look like Citizen Kane. From the beginning, with his arrival, his being mistaken by Wayne as Lyle the movie's sense of reality is painful. If you were hiring a hit-man, would you want a bit of a physical description of him? Does Cage remotely look like Lyle? What because they both drive cars with Texas license plates? Are you kidding me, who believes this? This and the terrible acting, with the exception of Walsh, the only actor in the cast doomed the movie at the box office. Everyone remember the killer Bronson in the Mechanic? Would he have given a hitchhiker a ride? Chatted amiably with him and been thrilled they both were in Vietnam? How dorky!
The contrivances to keep Michael in Red Rock would make Rod Serling say,"forget it, nobody will buy that, too phony." The pacing of the movie is like geological time, sloow. Hopper wrecks the movie with his ham bone overacting like he destroyed Blue Velvet. From the moment they get Wayne at jail until the crappy scene in the graveyard; Hopper shows why you do not want him in your movie. He is doing Frank Booth light here; it is so obvious and it destroys any remaining reality of the film. Yes, when I am desperate and just got money to kill Wayne's wife, I always stop at the local Holiday Inn for some quick bed action? One ridiculous scene after another with some really bad acting by Flynn Boyle and Hopper lay waste to the film. I love anti greed movies like Sierra Madre but please the writing and acting here are not remotely in the same league. Bogie, Huston and Holt versus Hopper, Flynn Boyle and Cage, the latter shows why he is an action movie star. In drama, like Bangkok Dangerous he is out of his genre. Do not believe me? Watch Matchstick Men, it bombed for a reason.
The greed message is lost among the wreckage that is this movie. When it was released it played at small art theaters for a reason, nobody would buy it for their big theaters. It was gone in a few weeks. Boring and slow like molasses, badly acted and written; it was held up as some wannabe Noir in color, no it is just crap, sorry.
If you like plot turns, this is your movie. It is impossible at any moment to predict what will happen next. Nothing is as it appears or ends as you think it will. The characters are all gritty and engaging. Cage is at his best. Dennis Hopper again shows his delightfully sinister side. JT Walsh is perfect in his last performance. Laura Boyle sizzles. Dwight Yoakum makes a film debut superbly in a cameo. I categorize this movie as "I am having a really, really, really bad day" film. Not a slow minute in this film. A real sleeper. This movie is underrated and, sadly, overlooked.
"Red Rock West" was far and away one of the best suspense thrillers of the
90's with a superb script (by John and Rick Dahl) that kept you guessing
throughout and on the edge of your seat for most of the film. It was
brilliantly directed by John Dahl and featured a marvellous cast including
Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle and especially J. T. Walsh (in
a memorable performance) making this a riveting and captivating thriller not
to be missed. The film never had much publicity on release (in fact I first
caught up with it on TV) and is therefore one of those special little gems
that you have to seek out but this unique film is now slowly gaining a cult
Nicolas Cage is Michael Williams who is broke and out of work when he finds himself in the small town of Red Rock. Mistaken for a contract killer named Lyle from Dallas he is shocked to be offered $10,000 to murder the wife of bar owner Wayne Brown (the excellent J. T. Walsh). He plays along with the plan and decides he should go and warn Brown's wife Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle) but then the plot thickens and there are so many twists, turns and surprises - and double dealings - that Cage is thrown from one crisis to another and finds himself trapped in a terrible situation he can't drag himself out of! Then just to complicate matters even further the real Lyle turns up to carry out the contract killing (played by everyone's favourite heavy Dennis Hopper). When Hopper discovers what has happened he goes after Cage but no one could forsee the surprising events that follow.
Some favourite lines from the film:
Nicolas Cage (to Lara Flynn Boyle): "I hate to see an innocent woman get hurt but it's an awful lot of money".
J. T. Walsh (to Cage): "Michael Williams. Well, Michael, you're going to be spending some time with us till we get to the bottom of this".
Boyle (to Cage): "You're not a killer?". Cage: "That's right, no. But the guy I'm supposed to be just rode into town so you gotta get out of here".
Boyle (to Cage): "O.K. How you're going to explain impersonating a hired killer and taking $10,000 from my husband?".
An extraordinarily entertaining little thriller (just 98 minutes) with a storyline that never lets up and powerful acting by all the principals. Any film featuring J. T. Walsh is O.K. in my book and "Red Rock West" was one of his best. How sad it was that this exceptional actor's career was cut tragically short by a heart attack in 1998. The most prolific period for "film noir" was without any doubt the forties but "Red Rock West" is a good modern example of the genre and has jumped right into my "Top Ten" list of all time favourite films. I look forward to more like this from director John Dahl. 10/10. Clive Roberts.
A basically decent drifter (Nicolas Cage) lands in the tiny town of Red
looking for work. When he stops in the bar, the bar owner (J. T. Walsh) asks
why he took so
long and asks him to step in the back office so they can discuss the job.
Cage plays along,
then discovers the work is to kill the bar owner's wife. He takes the money,
drives out to the
ranch to warn the wife (Laura Flynn Boyle), and starts to leave town.
Problems arise and he
returns to town in time to witness the real hit man (Dennis Hopper) arrive.
downhill for the Cage character after that.
This is an excellent, convoluted, well-acted and offbeat mystery. Funny, too. Cage never knows what's happening, but everybody else assumes he does. Dennis Hopper again plays a charming semi-psycho but he hadn't patented the style yet so it seems fresh. J. T. Walsh was a great character actor who died young. He's outstanding as the bar owner...who also happens to be the sheriff. He has one or two other secrets as well. And if Boyle doesn't rev your engine, you may need a tune up. She's more ruthless than the lot of them.
Red Rock West is directed by John Dahl who also co-wrote the screenplay
with his brother Rick. It stars Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn
Boyle, J. T. Walsh and Timothy Carhart. Music is by William Olvis and
cinematography by Marc Reshovsky.
When a promised job in Wyoming fails to materialise on account of an injury sustained in combat, Michael Williams (Cage) drifts into the town of Red Rock and is mistaken in a bar for a hit-man hired to kill an unfaithful wife. Tempted by the high cash on offer, Michael plays along and promptly finds himself in a web of intrigue from which escape is looking unlikely
Welcome To Red Rock/You Are Now Leaving Red Rock.
The studio didn't know what to do with it, a neo-noir flavoured with contemporary Western spices. Put out on cable in America and thriving on its limited release in Europe, it started to gain a cult fan-base. More so after a theatre in the Frisco Bay area started showing it and it made considerable coinage. Today it still remains more of a cult piece than anything else, which while it deserves more accolades and exposure, is still kind of nice for the fans, because it's like we have our own little neo-noir treasure all to ourselves.
Red Rock West is essential for the neo-noir heads and well worthy of inspection by the average modern day crime film fan. Plot wise it's a bit, shall we say iffy? Yet the twists, turns and characterisations are so deftly constructed and performed, it matters not a jot. Cage's ex- marine is an honest and decent guy who whilst down on his luck - punished for his honesty - finds himself in a vortex of mystery and murder that he can't escape from. His companions in this scenario are film noir staples, the femme fatale (Boyle) with a smoulder as big as her secret, the hit-man (Hopper) with a glint in his eye to accompany his callous leanings, and the shifty bar owner (Walsh) trying to off his wife whilst keeping his shady cards close to his chest.
As the tricksy plot unfolds in a haze of bad judgements and untruths, further pulsed by the vagaries of fate, it becomes apparent that Dahl wants us to know it isn't taking itself too seriously. There's a glorious scent of dark humour hanging in the air, an unpretentiousness about the whole thing that's refreshing. The look and feel is perfect for the narrative, the colour is stripped back to create a moody atmospheric surround, while the score and sound-tracking immediately brings to mind country and western tales of woe. Dahl knows his noir onions, but this is not just a homage hat tipper to the past, he understands what works in noir, be it the blending of the quirky with the edgy, or scene setting in locales such as a colourless bar and a foggy cemetery, Dahl gets the key ingredients right to deliver the goods wholesale.
The small cast come up trumps. Boyle as Suzanne Brown is weak if her femme fatale is pitted against the likes of Matty Walker or Bridget Gregory, but it's an adequate performance that doesn't hinder the picture. She is helped enormously, though, by having to share most scenes with Cage who brings his "A" game. Consistently inconsistent throughout his career, Cage, when on form is a joy to watch, here he gets to thrive as a put upon hero, shifting seamlessly between confusion and boldness, where incredulous looks are the order of the day with a side order of eccentric intensity. Hopper does what he does so well, amusing villainy, while Walsh is effortlessly menacing and suspicious. In small secondary support Carhart and country star Dwight Yoakam leave favourable impressions.
This is not an edge of your seat thriller, or a cranium bothering piece of dramedy, it's neo-noir done right. Where morality is grey at best and money is the root of all evil, it's slick, playful, cold blooded and absorbing. Hooray! 9/10
"Red rock west" superbly ends on a train,while Dwight Yoakam's
sensational "A thousand miles from nowhere" is heard during the final
credits.One should note that the excellent soundtrack features two
songs of the late great Johnny Cash and other chestnuts.
What about the movie?It's an excellent entertaining flick.Two tremendous leads :Nicolas Cage ,who always seems overtaken by events,always looking stupefied and Dennis Hopper who does not take his character seriously and deliciously overacts while displaying a lot of humor.All the supporting cast is excellent ,and as absolutely no one can be trusted in this money story,there are enough twists to satisfy the action-packed movie buff.One should notice that ,towards the end ,in the graveyard ,the movie verges on horror.
An excellent entertainment for a hard day's night.
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