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Red Rock West Review

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An out-of-work marine is mistaken for a hitman and offered cash to bump off an heiress. He takes the cash, hoping to make a runner with it before having to go through with the hit.

★★★★★

Starring a trio of actors with more than a passing association with David Lynch, John Dahl's film takes the familiar Lynchian theme of smalltown America - Red Rock, Wyoming - and does the old trick of peeling back the veneer to reveal that all is not well beneath the dusty exterior.

Idling into town comes Michael (Cage), an out of work former Marine, meandering his way north in search of gainful employment. Pulling over for an innocent bevvy at the local bar, a classic case of mistaken identity occurs and, by virtue of his motor's Texas plates, shady bar proprietor Wayne (Walsh) assumes Michael to be the Lone Star hitman he hired to bump off his heiress wife.

With a $5,000 downpayment slapped into his grubby mitts and being, well, a bit strapped for cash, Michael goes along with the ruse, traipsing off to despatch the brains of Wayne's missus (Flynn Boyle) in a general westerly direction. Being a decent sort of bloke, he never really intends to go through with it, of course, but a further complication prevents him doing a speedy runner from Red Rock.

Thus, when the real hitman (Hopper) shows up, the fun and games begin, with everybody doublecrossing everybody else but with all of them out to nail Michael good and proper. Cage, Hollywood's favourite world-weary individual, slopes about with his usual downtrodden competence and J. T. Walsh, the supporting actor's supporting actor, is nicely chilling, but the real joy here is Hopper in a superbly psychotic turn as gunman Lyle, not a million miles away from, and probably related to, Blue Velvet's Frank.

Unfortunately, Flynn Boyle doesn't cut the mustard as a scheming femme fatale, but there are enough cracking twists and a genuine feeling of suspense to notch this up as one of the superior "noirs" of the early 90s.

Not stellar Lynch but still an enjoyable film noir.