I first watched Red Rock West not too long after its release in 1992,and was impressed. On a second viewing, twenty years later, the film stands up very well. It's a snappy neo-noir thriller, atmospherically filmed in Arizona, and with moments of dark comedy leavening the violence. The real surprise is that the movie did not do especially well at first, but its reputation has steadily increased, and with good reason.
Nicholas Cage is very good as Michael, a war veteran who is drifting around in his car, looking for work without much success. He's soon established as a genuinely decent guy, who does not readily give in to temptation. However, when he arrives in Red Rock, he makes his way to Wayne's Bar, and is mistaken by Wayne for Lyle, a hitman from Dallas whom he has hired to murder his wife.
Wayne is a superficially charming but in fact deeply odious character, very well played by J. T. Walsh, whose early death only six years after this film was made was a great loss.Michael reveals the plan to Wayne's wife, and does his best to escape from Red Rock, but Fate lends a hand. When he acts as a sort of Good Samaritan, he finishes up falling foul of the local cops. Then the Sheriff of Red Rock arrives -and this turns out to be Wayne.
The plot complications come thick and fast as Lyle finally arrives in town. He's played by the splendidly menacing Dennis Hopper, one of a number of very strong performances. Best of all is Cage, who shows what a good actor he is at his best. Red Rock West is a thoroughly enjoyable film, well worth a second viewing.