Culture Magazine

Movie Review – Red Rock West (1993)

By Manofyesterday

Director: John Dahl

Stars: Nicolas Cage, J.T. Walsh, Lara Flynn Boyle and Dennis Hopper

Michael (Cage) is a drifter desperately searching for a job. He ends up in a bar in the small town of Red Rock West, where he meets Wayne (Walsh), who sees his license plates and assumes that he’s Lyle, a man he hired for a job that didn’t show up. Sensing an opportunity, Michael takes the job but is then shocked when he finds out that the job is actually to take out Wayne’s wife. Finding that he can’t betray his morals he tries to skip town, but he gets into more trouble when the real Lyle shows up. 

Many people think that Nicolas Cage has lost whatever talent he has (which I disagree with) but in this early film it’s a chance to see him in the smaller pictures, rather than the big budget, action-packed ones he does nowadays. In this one his role is mostly one of befuddlement as his character never really knows what’s going on, yet everyone else assumes he does. It’s also very funny to see him try again and again to leave the town yet always be brought back due to some quirk of fate. 

The story was intriguing and there were quite a few twists that kept me engaged. Walsh was great and menacing as Wayne, and Hopper was excellent as the at-first friendly, but then quickly dangerous hitman Lyle. Boyle rounded out the cast as the target of the hit, but she perhaps has secrets of her own. All the while we’re hoping that Michael can somehow find his way out of this because he’s a basically decent guy who just can’t seem to catch a break. 

It’s one of those films that’s perfect to put on late at night just before you go to sleep. The soundtrack has the twang of the heart of America and the whole thing has a slow, atmospheric feel where the tension creeps up on you in a surprising manner. I really enjoyed this one and if you like the quiet films that take place in some backwater American town you should check it out. 

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