This is a would-be excellent film with only one problem: the Coen didn’t direct it. Let me explain myself. Joel and Ethan Coen are some of the best American filmmakers of the last 15 years or so. Their films are extremely stylish, violent, weird and funny. They take a familiar plot and twist it into something real cool. John Dahl seems to wanna do the same thing. He directed two flicks so far, this one and “The Last Seduction”. Both of them are really good, but something’s missing. It’s like Carl Franklin’s “One False Move”. All these films are well written, directed and acted, but still, they didn’t satisfy me completely. It must be because I’m such a fan of the Coen, who have that talent of putting humor and excitement in the most tired storyline.
“Red Rock West” is nothing new. The plot is the kind of modern film noir/western that we’ve seen so much of. You got that down-on-his-luck fella who arrives in a small town in the desert and has to kill some redneck’s wife, but she seduces him and then betrays him and so on. The script is filled with twists, but I’ve seen this kind of film so often that I can now predict most of it. You know that the hero will spend the whole film trying to leave the town but will always be taken back in, and that a large sum of money (the usual half-million) will pop up at anytime soon. Dahl did add a “new” element: a hitman who gets tangled up in all this. But I wouldn’t say it’s that new, ’cause the killer is played by Dennis Hopper, and it’s exactly the same role he played in David Lynch’s brilliant “Blue Velvet”. Still, Hopper’s fun to watch, as is the rest of the cast. And that does help the film, a lot. The hero is played by Nicolas Cage, and he achieves to bring more fun to the film. So altogether, the film isn’t bad, but it could have been more fun. I do like the settings, and every scene is pretty well crafted, but actually, I preferred Oliver Stone’s “U-Turn”. I know that it’s a rip-off of “Red Rock West”, but Stone’s style is more inventive, and the cast is even cooler.