Monday, June 27, 2016

Red Rock West (1993) Lone Star Loser

Red Rock West was the second shoe string budget Neo Noir directed by John Dahl.  It was written by John Dahl and Rick Dahl. The film stars Nicolas Cage (The Cotton Club (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Wild at Heart (1990), Leaving Las Vegas (1995)), Dennis Hopper (I Died a Thousand Times (1955), Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), The American Friend (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), Black Widow (1987), True Romance (1993), Lara Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks TV Series (1990–1991)), J.T. Walsh (The Grifters (1990)) and Dale Gibson. Music was by William Olvis. Cinematography was by Marc Reshovsky.

Michael Williams (Cage)
Michael Williams (Cage). Wounded warrior. Sempre Fi. Bum leg. Beirut barracks bombing. 1st Battalion 8th Marines. 241 dead. 128 survivors. Michael's busted. A Texas transient. Lone Star loser. Dirt poor drifter. Down but not out. Looking for work. Takes a flier. A buddies tip. Wyoming wildcat roughneck. Ramblin' man.

His cleanest dirty shirt
Cadillac Cowboy. 67 Coupe Deville camp out. State Rt. 487. Asphalt accommodations. Casper-Medicine Bow two lane. The backroad boonies.

He gets a stock tank shave. Puts on his cleanest dirty shirt. Drives a dirt track to the drill site. Honesty is not the best policy. His gimpy knee gets him shot out of the saddle. Screwed. Blew his wad gettin' there. Pissed. Lays out a contrail of dust.  Almost outta gas. A fin to his name. Gas station codger points him to Red Rock. Nearest town with prospects. Check the local watering hole.

Michael blows into town. Pulls up to the Red Rock Bar. Bar just open. Owner Wayne Brown (Walsh) on duty. Spies Michael's Texas plates. Michael walks in looking for work. Wayne says "I thought you were supposed to be here last friday, I thought I would have to find somebody else. You are here for the job ain't you?" Michael scopes the back bar, sees a "Welcome to Wayne's Place" sign. Michael asks "you Wayne?" Michael plays along, he's desperate, he's interested. Wayne asks if he's Lyle, from Dallas, Michael says yea. It's case of mistaken identity. It's Michael's luck day. Wayne takes Michael back to the office.

Wayne and Michael first meet
Wayne (J.T. Walsh)

the hit job
Wayne was expecting a Dallas, Texas hit man named Lyle. Lyle is a pro. Lyle is supposed to whack his wandering whore wife Suzanne (Boyle). Wayne gives Michael $5,000. Half now. Half later. His address and directions. Wayne tells him she's out riding. Wait at the house. Kill her and make it look like a breakin. Michael goes out and scopes the job. She's riding alright, her horse and the baloney pony of a ranch hand Kurt (Gibson) who lives in a nearby trailer.

Suzanne riding her horse

Suzanne about to ride Kurt

Suzanne (Boyle)
Michael waits for Suzanne at the house. She's stunned. Michael gives her the bad news. Your husband wants you chilled. She doubles her husband's offer. Michael's stunned. She wants Michael to ice Wayne.

At this point in the tale Michael has $15,000 in hundred dollar bills and decides get the hell outta Dodge. Good idea. But as he's gettin' he accidently hits Kurt who lunges out into the road in front of him. Doing the right thing, Michael brings Kurt to the local band aid station. This gets Michael his wild ride into Noirsville. Sharp twists and curves ahead.


Lyle (Hopper)

Cage is believable as Michael, he plays the part with the right mix of honesty, humility, chagrin, and boldness. J.T. Walsh is excellent as the bar owner/sheriff with a shady past. Dennis Hopper is entertaining as Lyle the Dallas hit man, doing his slightly over the top schtick, almost homaging/reprising his Frank Booth character from Blue Velvet. Dahl seems to have a penchant for dark brunette Femme Fatales they feature in all three of his Neo Noirs. The films only speed bump is Lara Flynn Boyle, who is merely adequate in her role.  She just seems to simmer along sedately, never quite matching the delicious seediness of Joanne Whalley in Kill Me Again, or the sexy cunning intelligence of Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction. Her attire is 90% unattractive, which I don't quite get. It was a poor decision by the costume department.

The film is entertaining, but I still consider it the weakest of Dahl's Neo Noirs. Filmed mostly in Arizona, with a bit of Montana. The closing freight train sequence before the credits roll looks an awful lot like the old Northern Pacific (now Montana Rail Link) spur that runs up to Polson. The shot is near Charlo, Northwest of St. Ignatius on the Flathead Indian Reservation, with the Mission Mountains in the background. I should know I ran a wrecking yard just North of that location back in the 1980s. 8/10



  1. Interesting effort, I suppose you liked the film yourself, interesting description, slightly direct and humorous.
    I myself rate the movie as one of the top ten, cult noir's.

  2. Not filmed in Wyoming, as you say, as state highway 487 is north/south and is signed that way.