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USA 1993
Directed by
John Dahl
98 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Red Rock West

John Dahl with the aid of his brother Rick Dahl fashion a neat story about an innocent man (Nicolas Cage) whose simple act of deception gets him involved in a spiral of murder and mayhem in the Wyoming oil town of Red Rock West. Cage plays an itinerant worker, Michael, who is mistaken by J.T. Walsh’s bar owner, Wayne, for a killer he has hired to knock off his wife (Lara Flynn Boyle). Down his luck, Michael grabs the opportunity to make some easy money and seems to get even luckier when the wife offers him double to bump off wayne but things go wrong when he is skipping out of town with the money and he finds out that leaving Red Rock is not as easy as he assumed. When the real killer (Dennis Hopper)  turns up it gets even harder.

Initially released straight to video before word-of-mouth got it a limited theatrical release, Red Rock West is one of those felicitous small films whose economy works in its favour. The combination of a tight, inventive script peppered with black humour, deft direction and first class performances all round (well, Boyle isn't a whole lot more than serviceable) make it a genre gem. Whilst the the plot does require some willingness to suspend disbelief about the only thing you can hold against the film is Michael's on/off knee injury which for some unknown reason Dahl makes much off in the opening scene, then seems to forget for a while before resuscitating, the forgetting again and so on.

 

 

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