Filmmaker David Lynch has always done very well at telling interesting stories that bring out the most offbeat qualities in his characters. Here, he pours on the style and the sordid melodrama, alternating between excess and some subtlety as he lays out the romance at the core of the tale. Basing his script on a novel by Barry Gifford, he gives his typically eclectic cast some juicy dialogue to deliver.
Now, granted, some of the actors & actresses barely have time to leave an impression, but there's a lot of talent here, so minimal screen time is not as much of an issue as it could have been. Lynch occasionally pours on the graphic violence (the demise of Peru is a highlight), but thanks to an entertaining story and these incredible actors, he keeps his grip throughout.
Cage is amusing as he does his best to exude "cool"; he and the sexy Dern do make a good couple. In addition to those supporting actors already mentioned, people like Crispin Glover (as the cousin with the Christmas fetish and the roaches in his underwear), Calvin Lockhart, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Zabriskie (one of this viewers' favourite character actresses, cast as a crazed, crippled hit woman), Sherilyn Fenn, Marvin Kaplan, William Morgan Sheppard, David Patrick Kelly, Freddie Jones, John Lurie, Jack Nance, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Frances Bay, Frank Collison, and Sheryl Lee all turn up as well. KoKo Taylor makes a musical appearance. Several years later, the Rossellini character, Perdita Durango, got a movie of her own, where she was played by Rosie Perez.
All in all, this is certifiably odd in the Lynch tradition, complete with "Wizard of Oz" references, but it does hold ones' attention, ultimately ending the yarn with some degree of satisfaction.
Seven out of 10.