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Red Rock West

Theatrical poster
Directed by John Dahl
Produced by Steve Golin
Sigurjón Sighvatsson
Written by John Dahl
Rick Dahl
Starring Nicolas Cage
Lara Flynn Boyle
J.T. Walsh
Dennis Hopper
Music by William Olvis
Cinematography Marc Reshovsky
Editing by Scott Chestnut
Distributed by Roxie Releasing
Release date(s) France:
June 16, 1993
United States:
April 8, 1994
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7,000,000
Gross revenue $2,502,551

Red Rock West (1992) is a neo-noir film directed by John Dahl. The film, written by Dahl and his brother Rick, was shot in Montana and Willcox, Arizona. The film was well received at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, but deemed a cable and direct-to-video product by Columbia Tri-Star, which owned the North American rights. When Bill Banning, the owner of a San Francisco movie theater and a huge fan of the film, arranged for a theatrical release, the film gained a "buzz" and toured U.S.[citation needed] as an art-house hit.



Nicolas Cage plays Michael Williams, a drifter who wanders into rural Red Rock, Wyoming looking for work. A local bar owner named Wayne (J.T. Walsh) mistakes him for a hit man, "Lyle from Dallas," whom Wayne has hired to kill his wife. Wayne offers him a stack of cash--"half now, half later"-- Michael doesn't correct him and takes the money. Michael then visits Wayne's wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle) and attempts to warn her that her life is in danger—instead of killing her. She then makes a tempting counteroffer to him. Michael, knowing that the longer he stays in town the more danger he'll get into, continually tries to leave town, with no success. He complicates matters when he becomes romantically involved with Suzanne, and has to dodge bullets when "Lyle from Dallas" (Dennis Hopper) finally does show up.

Featured cast

Actor Role
Nicolas Cage Michael Williams
J. T. Walsh Wayne Brown/Kevin McCord
Lara Flynn Boyle Suzanne Brown/Ann McCord
Dennis Hopper Lyle from Dallas
Dwight Yoakam Truck Driver
Timothy Carhart Deputy Matt Greytack
Robert Apel Howard


Red Rock West was made in 1992 in Arizona on a budget of $7 million.[1] The domestic rights were sold to Columbia Tri-Star home video for $2.5 million and the foreign rights to Manifesto Films, a subsidiary of Polygram Filmed Entertainment.[1] Test screenings for the film were not strong and Peter Graves, an independent consultant who headed the marketing department at Polygram said, "The film doesn't fall neatly into any marketable category. A western film noir isn't something people can immediately spark to."[1] One of the film's producers suggested early on that the film be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival and was told by the studio that it wasn't a festival film.[1] Columbia sold Red Rock West to cable and it was shown seven times on HBO in the fall of 1993.[1]

The film opened successfully in theaters in Germany, Paris, and London in the summer of 1993. Piers Handling, director of the Toronto Film Festival saw the film in Paris and decided to show it at the festival in September.[1] Bill Banning, who owned the Roxie Cinema and Roxie Releasing in San Francisco saw Red Rock West in Toronto and thought that there might be an American theatrical audience for the film. It took him until January 1994 to find out who owned the rights.[1] The film had already played on HBO at this point and was due to come out on video in February.[1] Banning started showing Red Rock West at the Roxie Cinema on January 28, 1994 where it broke box office records before expanding to eight theaters in the city.[1] It then opened in Los Angeles and New York City.


The soundtrack for the film features a number of country music performers, including Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, The Kentucky Headhunters, and Sammy Kershaw. Dwight Yoakam wrote the film's closing credits song "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" when the film was being made and while the musician made his film acting debut in the film. The song went on to become a Top 10 country hit.[2]


In his review for the Washington Post, Richard Harrington praised it as "a treasure waiting to be discovered."[3] In her review for the New York Times, Caryn James called it "a terrifically enjoyable, smartly acted, over-the-top thriller."[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hornaday, Anne (April 3, 1994). "Film Noir, 'Tweener' or Flub?". New York Times. 
  2. ^ Bearden, Keith (August 1, 1994). "John Dahl". MovieMaker. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  3. ^ Harrington, Richard (April 15, 1994). "Red Rock West: Strange Turns on the Road". Washington Post. 
  4. ^ James, Caryn (April 8, 1994). "The New Boy in a Town Ruled by Coincidence". New York Times. 

External links



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