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Film / Red Rock West

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Red Rock West is a 1993 crime thriller film directed by John Dahl (who also wrote the screenplay with his brother Rick), starring Nicolas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Dennis Hopper.

Michael Williams (Cage) is a drifter living out of his car after being discharged from the Marine Corps. After failing to get work at a construction job, Michael happens into a bar in Red Rock, Wyoming. The bartender (J. T. Walsh) mistakes him for a "Lyle from Dallas" that he was waiting on and, desperate for work, Michael decides to play along. Then it turns out the job is to kill the bartender's wife (Boyle).

Things go From Bad to Worse when the real Lyle (Hopper) shows up.

A mix between New Old West and neo-Noir, the film was well-received at festival screenings, but the rights holders deemed it not marketable for film release and released strictly on cable and Direct to Video. Despite its poor release, it did surprisingly well in local art house circuits, gaining a small reputation as a Cult Classic.

This film features examples of:

  • Ax-Crazy: Lyle from Dallas initially seems composed, but his reckless actions and anger nearly get himself and others killed.
  • Badass Boast: Mike, after his last fight with Lyle.
    Mike: You know I'm better than you.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Deputy Greytack initially seems to be accusing Michael of a crime he didn't commit, but once his boss shows up, it's made clear that he recognizes that the signs point to Michael's innocence and is just confused by the whole affair.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Michael's future is unclear and he's still strapped for cash... but everyone else is caught/killed for their crimes and he finally manages to escape Red Rock with just enough money to keep going.
  • Black Bra and Panties: Suzanne wears slinky black underwear while seducing Michael.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Kurt was shot for trying to blackmail the fugitive Suzanne, although unusually he survived.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Michael remains honest about his injury when applying for a construction job and refuses to steal money from the gas station despite how much easier it would make his life. Finally lying in order to get work instantly drops Michael into a complete mess.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Suzanne just can't resist trying to swindle everyone to get the money for herself.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Suzanne's hands are tied behind her back in the final act, but she spends a while trying to work them loose and does so without any help from The Hero. In a twist, she's an antagonistic Femme Fatale, just one who's not loyal to the other villains.
  • Dirty Cop: As it turns out, Wayne's the local sheriff.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Wayne may be trying to get his wife killed but he's horrified when Lyle from Dallas kills one of his deputies.
  • Femme Fatale: Suzanne Brown or rather Ann Mc Cord fills the mysterious role easily and her motivations are left up in the air for the majority of the film.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Lyle can put on a charming front but enjoys toying with his prisoners, kills an unarmed deputy at the jail and can give across a Slasher Smile or two while talking about how people think their better than him.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: After Wayne discovers that Michael isn't the hitman he sent for to kill his wife, he demands to know if Michael has told anyone else about what Wayne tried to hire him to do. Hoping to calm the angry Wayne, Michael says that he hasn't told anyone and just wants to leave town. Wayne tries to kill him.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: An example only obvious on a rewatch. Suzanne is seen pouring herself a drink after her horseback ride before Michael shows himself to her. It's later revealed that she'd just shot Kurt.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Lyle starts a house fire in order to draw the deputies to the scene, so he can handle business inside the police station with Wayne.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Everyone, in the end, get exactly what they gave out.
    • Michael can't manage to leave Red Rock when he pretends to be someone else, making him a "thief" according to Lyle. He finally escapes Red Rock when he abandons the stolen money, riding safely out of town.
    • Wayne hires someone to kill his wife and works situations to avoid dirtying his own hands. He ends up getting attacked by both Lyle and Suzanne in the climax and likely to die from his wounds.
    • Lyle is a Professional Killer who's ready to take down anyone for a paycheck. Suzanne, the exact woman he was supposed to kill, is the one who offs him.
    • Suzanne kills and betrays anyone who knows her, in an attempt to keep all the money for herself. She ends up dumped on the side of the tracks with her precious money, as cops who know exactly who she is start pulling up.
  • Left for Dead:
    • Suzanne shot Kurt twice in the stomach but he isn't dead, making it to the road and then being hit by Michale and taken to the hospital.
    • Wayne is stabbed in the neck and left at the scene of the graveyard fight, although Suzanne sees he's still alvie and just this him in the head to knock him down. He's str alive and conscious when hie deputies arrive and pints them after the train, with it being unrevealed whether or not he ultimately survived.
  • Made of Iron: Kurt is moving around fine as he tries to wave down Michael despite two bullets in the stomach and also survives being hit by Michael's car.
  • Mathematician's Answer: When Lyle asks how Wayne, a wanted fugitive, got to be sheriff, Wayne replies "I was elected."
  • Not What It Looks Like: The scene where Suzanne nervously meets a pleased looking Kurt in his trailer while Michael watches looks like them meeting for an affair when really he thinks she's there to pay off blackmail money and she's there to shoot him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Michael barely manages to restrain his when he realizes he's just hitched a ride from the real Lyle from Dallas.
  • Oral Fixation: Deputy Bowman is constantly chewing on a long toothpick.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Wayne yells at Lyle not to shoot the deputy guarding him at the jail and also tells Lyle that they should just let Mike and Suzanne go now that he's been exposed and they can leave town with the money anyway.
    • After he nearly runs over Mike, Lyle offers him a ride into town, offering condolences about how he got hurt in Lebanon and offering to buy him a drink and drive him back to his car.
    • Suzanne offers to let Michael just jump out the door to the train instead of murdering him when she has a gun on him, saying she kind of likes him, before he turns the tables.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Lyle is a bit on the short side but puts up a good fight against Michale and is able to pull himself off a statute where he was Impaled with Extreme Prejudice and stagger after Michael.
  • Police Are Useless: Mostly subverted. Deputy Matt Greytack recognizes Michael has no reason to kill Kurt and try to save his life. He quickly discovers Wayne's embezzlement scam and he catches onto Lyle's distraction scheme just as fast. Unfortunately, he's just not fast enough to catch anyone until the chaos has already settled.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: After the jailbreak Lyle forces Michael to try and drive the car through a railroad crossing to beat a train. Unusually, Michael isn't fast enough to make it across ahead of the train.... which forces him to drive alongside the train for a bit and then swerve in front of it.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why was Lyle a week late arriving in town?
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Matt is right about how Kurt was shot as the result of a Blackmail Backfire. He's just wrong about who did it, suspecting Wayne instead of Suzanne.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After taking Wayne's job, Michael instead warns Suzanne, mails a letter incriminating Wayne to his deputies then buys a bunch of food and tries to drive out of town. The only problem is that he (literally) runs into Kurt.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The gas station owner who directs Michael to Red Rock is only on screen for about a minute but his suggestion kicks off the rest of the plot.
  • Spanner in the Works: Michael's chance arrival in Wayne's bar completely throws Wayne's murder plan off track.
  • Stepford Smiler: After not getting the oil field job Mike thanks the friend who tried to get him the job and says he's not upset with him but as he drives off angrily punches the roof of his car.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Michael, Suzanne, Wayne and Lyle all engage with this trope at different times.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Wayne's rather popular and apparently gave everyone in Red Rock a free drink in order to get elected sheriff. That said, its suggested his star has already begun to fall by the time Michael arrives in town.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Michael is introduced doing pushups shirtless on the road.
  • Wham Shot: When Lyle picks up Michael on the road the first sign of who he is comes from the close up of his Dallas license plate.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Michael repeatedly passes this test. He tells the truth about a disability he has on a job questionnaire. He doesn't take money sticking out of a cash register when he's alone in a room with it. And when he accidentally hits a man in the rain, he ultimately goes back to check on him and takes him back to the hospital in spite of how much danger is waiting for him back in town.