Saturday, November 08, 2008

MOTM: Red Rock West

The Movie of the Month for November, suggested by Fletch at Blog Cabins turned out to be one of my very favorites from the early 90's- John Dahl's "Red Rock West". Let me the count ways I like thee:

1. Dwight Yoakem: The country-western singer turned actor is nothing new. After all, Willie Nelson has fared pretty well since the early 80's. But with Yoakem, "Red Rock West" proved that his presence as a supporting actor was a lot more than gimmicky. His career-topper still lies in his performance as the drunken father/husband in "Sling Blade", but "Red Rock West" momentarily introduced the world to Yoakem the actor. It's a small role, but an indelible one.
2. Neo noir: When I first saw "Red Rock West" in '94 (though it was released in 1992 on TV), the term neo-noir was being thrown around liberally. Filmmakers as diverse as Stephen Soderbergh, James Foley, the Coen Brothers, Stephen Frears and Carl Franklin had all taken successful stabs at the genre. But with "Red Rock West", director John Dahl felt like the most faithful interpreter of this newly coined genre. The images of Wyoming at night- while diametrically opposed to the usual hangouts and locales of traditional film noir- made me realize that greed, deception and murder doesn't always have to happen in that city back alley. It can happen anywhere. "Red Rock West" seemed to open new doors to the genre. It even inspired my own attempt at screenwriting (unsuccessfully) to produce the same style of "western" noir. If nothing else, it's a film that stirred my creative juices.
3. Lara Flynn Boyle: I've always had an attraction to dark haired females, and in 1994, Lara Flynn Boyle was the it girl as far as I was concerned. After seeing her in Lynch's "Twin Peaks" and the gen-X comedy "Threesome", I was hooked on this sultry actress. Her femme fatale wife in "Red Rock West" did little to damper my attraction to her. Someone needs to bring her back onto the big screen.
4. Dennis Hopper: Like Dwight Yoakem, is there really much to say about Hopper? He shows up in a pink Cadillac with horns on the front, wearing a hat bigger than the car itself and chewing up the scenery. There were lots of roles like this for him in the early 90's. He knocked it out of the park.
5. John Dahl: Perhaps the biggest winner in all of this was director Dahl himself. After having this small film gain critical favor on the film festival circuit, it was given a proper release and generated a strong following. His next film, the equally delicious femme fatale noir "The Last Seduction" (with an equally seductive dark haired beauty in Linda Fiorentino) propelled Dahl into the mainstream. He's crafted a few missteps in the last couple of years (the saggy war drama "The Great Raid" and the even worse hit-man-in-midlife-crisis comedy "You Kill Me"), but I have faith that he'll stumble back into the fold of the auteurs.
6. Nicholas Cage: It's hard to suffocate my contempt for Cage the actor, and I guess all I can really say about his performance in "Red Rock West" is that he doesn't sink the picture. But truthfully, his sad-sack loser mug fits pretty nicely with the situation he finds himself in as loner Michael. If there was ever a face for the double-crossed loser, Cage is your man!

1 comment:

Fletch said...

That's too bad you didn't enjoy You Kill Me - I really did and saw it as a return to form for Dahl. His Liotta-Fioerentino film from way back (so bad I forgot the title - Unforgettable?) took his career right off the fast track, and it's been a long climb back, with Rounders helping out along the way.

If you've been to Blog Cabins much at all, you know I can't stand Cage...these days. RRW was one of his last films as an actor, and I appreciate even him in it.

Excellent calls on Yoakham and the hat bigger than the Cadillac - great line.