My Review of ‘Red Rock West’ (1993)

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This neo-noir film features the requisite down-and-out drifter (played by Nicholas Cage). His name is Michael Williams (talk about an everyman’s name!), an ex-Marine living in his car. He’s unable to land a job as an oil worker, because he’s too honest to lie about his war injury. I guess the oilfield operator was blissfully unaware of his obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

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Anyway, Michael drifts some more. Right into … you guessed it … Red Rock, Wyoming. He stops at a bar owned by Wayne, the town sheriff, who also serves as bartender on that particular night and also happens to be the dumbest lawman west of the Mississippi. Wayne says something like, “You here for the job?” to Michael. And since he’s looking for a job, Michael just kind of goes along with it. And then Wayne says, “You Lyle from Dallas?” And Michael’s like, Call me whatever you want, I’ll take the job. The thing is Michael doesn’t realize that Wayne hired Lyle from Dallas to knock off … wait for it … his wife. (Who else?)

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Without seeking any further proof of his identity, Wayne shoves a stack of bills at Michael and Michael just says, “O-o-okay,” and takes it. Then, being the great guy that he is, Michael goes to Wayne’s wife, Suzanne (played by Lara Flynn Boyle) and tries to warn her about the hit. And she offers him more to whack Wayne. And Michael’s like, WTF? I’m outta here.

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Except, of course, he’s not. He runs into one situation after another (which includes meeting the actual Lyle from Dallas, played by Dennis Hopper—in a style reminiscent of his role in Blue Velvet without the oxygen tank) and keeps ending up back in town.

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So … between being framed for the murder of a random stranger in need, being stalked by a hitman and his idiotic employer, and being charmed by Suzanne’s femme fatale ways, Michael ends up in quite a pickle.

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For me, the best part of this film was Nicholas Cage’s performance. He convincingly plays an ex-veteran with all the indications of having PTSD, including intense flashes of anger and the tendency to seek out dangerous situations. At the same time, he plays Michael as a character of such decency that you root for him matter what.

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However, despite the plot twists and the evocative setting, the resulting film came off as somewhat less than superb. Even predictable at times. However, while this isn’t a great neo-noir film, it’s a pleasant enough way to pass an hour and a half, if you’re really into the whole cowboy neo-noir thing. And you’re willing to overlook a few implausibilities.

I’ll be kind and give this a thumb up! But, be advised, it’s for the total neo-noir lover.

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