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  Red Rock West Getaway DrivingBuy this film here.
Year: 1992
Director: John Dahl
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, J.T. Walsh, Timothy Carhart, Dan Shor, Vance Johnson, Robert Guajardo, Dwight Yoakam, Shawn Michael Ryan, Barbara Glover, Craig Reay, Robert Apel, Michael Rudd
Genre: Thriller
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Michael Williams (Nicolas Cage) is an ex-marine who has fallen on hard times and is now driving across Wyoming, living out of his car. He heads for an oil rig looking for work as his friend (Craig Reay) has told him there's a job to be had, and when he gets there he has to fill out an application form. Unfortunately this means he has to mention his bad knee, an old war wound, which sees him shown the door by the management. He thanks his friend, turns down his offer of money, and drives off resignedly, noticing he needs to fill his car up with gas. Stopping at the station, nobody seems to be about, and he walks into the office to look; he then sees a wad of cash sitting behind the desk, and despite the temptation decides not to take it. If only he could be as upstanding when he reaches the town of Red Rock...

This heartless but absorbing thriller was scripted by brothers Rick Dahl and John Dahl, the former being a producer and latter the director, and it was obvious from its labyrinthine plotting that they'd seen a good many film noirs (films noir?) in their time. All the ingredients are there: a contract killer, a femme fatale, untrustworthy authorities and of course the hapless hero who's in trouble way over his head. The film packs in so many twists you wouldn't be surprised if it didn't make any sense, but the makers fashion a storyline that, while tricky, is refreshingly easy to follow and keeps its surprises.

It only takes a moment of weakness for Michael to step right into his predicament with both feet, and that's when he arrives in the small town of Red Rock and decides to spend the last of his cash on a drink. He takes a seat at the bar and the bartender immediately inquires where he's been; Michael is confused but doesn't let it show as the bartender, Wayne (J.T. Walsh) is asking him about a job he'd like done. A bartending job? Nope, Wayne wants his wife killed, and expects Michael to be the murderer, Lyle from Texas.

Michael pretends to go along with it, and gets a fat amount of banknotes for his trouble, then writes a letter to the sheriff telling him that the owner of the local bar has a contract out on his wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), before getting the hell out of there. However, it's a running joke of sorts that whenever the protagonist thinks he's leaving Red Rock, something happens to put him straight back again, and so it happens when he is driving along the road and sees a truck apparently broken down. What he doesn't see is the driver stumbling out into the path of his car, and he bumps straight into him. So it is that he has to return to town to take the man to the hospital.

And about an hour later, Michale is running for his life away from a shotgun brandishing Wayne who's not too happy about being double crossed, although by the end of the film, everyone will be used to that kind of behaviour. The actors are ideal in their roles, with Cage resourceful but just dim enough to be taken in by the scheming, Walsh effortlessly menacing as a man with a criminal past, Boyle the ice queen who is after the money, and eventually a highly amusing Dennis Hopper, making the most of his role as the real Lyle from Texas. Love of money is the root of all evil here, and it's greed that spurs the characters on, which may mean you don't really care if they succeed or fail, but you are gripped enough to see how it will all work itself out and Red Rock West doesn't disappoint in that regard. Music by William Olvis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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