A forceful, witty film noir played almost straight.Nicolas Cage is Michael Williams, a drifter and former Marine who shuffles into a Wyoming bar and is mistaken by its owner (J.T. Walsh) for a hit man. Director John Dall — who had back-to-back critical successes with this and The Last Seduction and then, sadly, sort of petered out — has so much fun with the baroque twists he and his cowriter (and brother) Rick set up that you may laugh out loud at some of them, even though they’re more nerve-wracking than funny — for instance, there’s a bit of business involving Cage, a truck, and a plank of wood that achieves the giddy precariousness of Hitchcock at his most fiendish.
Red Rock West had a checkered history: denied a theatrical release, it turned up on cable and video before a few savvy art-house theaters picked it up. Seeing it on video, I wished I’d made the effort to catch it with an appreciative midnight audience.Terrific performances all around (the small cast includes Lara Flynn Boyle, Dennis Hopper, and Dwight Yoakam), especially J.T. Walsh, who was taken from us too soon.