Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Nicolas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dennis Hopper, J.T. Walsh.
Tag-line: "...all roads lead to intrigue.
Best one-liner: "You must be Suzanne. You look pretty enough to eat." (Better when recited by a terrifying Dennis Hopper.)
Thankfully not succumbing to Eszterhasian flavors-of-the-month, RED ROCK WEST is a respectable Southwestern neo-noir in the mold of DETOUR or THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE with a touch of the old Hitchcockian mistaken identity. Director John Dahl crafts a thriller that nearly belongs to that 80's genre where an unwitting protagonist is swept up in an existential, horrific, endless journey with one terrible thing leading to another (see: AFTER HOURS, MIRACLE MILE, SOMETHING WILD- and Oliver Stone tried to duplicate RED ROCK WEST's success in the genre with 1997's uneven U TURN).
Noir updated for the 90's and beyond has a kind of disquieting vibe to it– dingy, rat-trap motels and eerie, rustic gas stations have been replaced with Comfort Inns and Chevrons; stark lighting and bold shadows have swapped for slick production value and unambiguous color. The film definitely works, however, despite it all. Dahl casts his film with a squad of David Lynch alumni: Nicolas Cage (WILD AT HEART), Lara Flynn Boyle (TWIN PEAKS), and Dennis Hopper (BLUE VELVET), and you can never go wrong with that. Cage is effective as our bewildered anchor,
Boyle is appropriately femme-fatale-ish (and as an added bonus, she already had 1940's eyebrows),
and Hopper is utterly unhinged (nearly repeating his performance from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2).
Wearing a ten gallon hat, lasciviously licking his lips, and dispensing nicknames (like "Wayner") and nuggets of wisdom (like "Don't piss on the seat, even if they did...it's not lucky!") with élan. There's denim, bolo ties; a vile, intense J.T. Walsh; and an excellent, twangy soundtrack with the likes of Johnny Cash, The Kentucky Headhunters, and Dwight Yoakam (who has a cameo).
There are so few characters, the film is nearly a chamber piece, and it develops into a sort of blend of TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. Since the film has the chops to pull it off, that's a real good thing. Four stars.