Love him or hate him (and since he named his kid after Superman he’s dropped a peg in my book), Nicolas Cage at least takes chances with his films. Sometimes this is disastrous and sometimes worthwhile, and realistically he hasn’t appeared in a really good movie since Adaptation in 2002.
Red Rock West was made in between his indie period of the late 80’s and the blockbuster guy of the mid to late 90’s, it’s a pretty good movie but you can see why articles don’t say things like “Nicolas Cage, of Leaving Las Vegas and Red Rock West fame….”
Strongly reminiscent of some of the Coen brothers early stuff, Red Rock West has more twists and turns than 12 garden variety whodunit thrillers combined.
Cage stars as Michael, a man down to his last few dollars that is coming to an end of a long trek to start a new job on an oil drilling site, only due to a military service injury he is knocked back by the boss.
So now he is still broke, out of fuel and disenchanted, Michael heads into the nearest town hoping to find work. A couple of early incidents show us he’s an honest and ethical guy, the kind of guy that calls a woman “Ma’am”.
Now the next bit can be described, but after the movie is half over the plot becomes impossible to explain simply without major spoilers as reality changes from one minute to the next.
So, Michael heads to the local pub and orders a coffee, the barman sees his car parked outside and because of the Texas license plate decides he is the man he is waiting for “Lyle from Texas”. As the mistaken identity involves paid employment Michael goes along with the mistake, until he finds out that the job is to kill Wayne the barman’s wife.
Rather than straight out saying No Michael takes the cash and heads to Wayne’s home.
Somehow Michael happens upon the wife riding a horse to where she is having some hanky panky with another farmhand, it’s never really explained how he knew she would be there but who cares. Michael then goes to the house and waits for her return, when they meet he explains why he is there, and Suzanne (played by 25 kg Lara Flynn-Boyle) calmly counter offers Michael, at double the rate, to kill Wayne instead.
Again Michael agrees, only this time he says enough and decides to “Lock it in Eddie”, taking the cash with the sole intention of buggering off.
Now in non-Hollywood this would be the end of it, but because a movie can’t be over in 45 minutes we follow Michael as he leaves town in the rain. Here’s where the twists get hectic, I’ll summarise the next 15 minutes:
- – Michael hits someone in his car and takes them to the local hospital. (He’s a nice guy remember?)
- – The Sheriff turns out to be the last person Michael needs to see, Wayne.
- – Wayne is a bit miffed at the perceived double cross and decides to off Michael.
- – Michael escapes, runs off and is picked up by Dennis Hopper, who is, you guessed it: Lyle from Texas!
I can’t explain much more without spoilers and confusion, only from here on in the remainder of the film revolves around Suzanne, Wayne, Michael and Lyle, and includes a myriad of twists and turns, deception, betrayal and double crossing galore.
Everything a grown movie needs really.
Wayne is played by JT Walsh, usually a bit player in other movies and I have always felt he is a bit over the top.
Dennis Hopper is always ultra-hammy, and is almost cartoonish here.
Lara Flynn-Boyle is surprisingly low key through most of the film, and has flawless skin regardless of the circumstances.
Cage plays the troubled hero part to the hilt, he’s the prototype for the nice guy in a situation that he wants to avoid but can’t.
The finale is in keeping with the rest of the film and is fairly satisfying.
If I might digress momentarily, at one stage Michael walks into a bar and says “Give me a beer”, now I have walked into many bars and know if I ever say that the bartender will say something along the lines of “Which one dickhead?” Since the dawn of time even the most low key bar stocks more than one brand, in fact most have literally dozens to choose from. Dunno why this bothers me but it does. If you’re worried about the perception of product placement do what Tarantino does and make up a brand.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. “We twist. And turn. And twist and twist and turn. Twist, twist, twist. Turn, turn, turn. The Itchy and Scratchy Show.” I mean Red Rock West.
(That means it’s a pretty good movie.)