Red Rock West - Cinématographe Limited EditionOverview -
Filmmaker John Dahl turned in some real delicious entertainment in the 90s with his erotic thriller The Last Seduction and the neo-noir Red Rock West, the latter of which has now received a superlative Blu-ray release courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome's newly minted sub-label Cinématographe. This Blu-ray release offers a wonderful new transfer of the film, a bevy of physical and digital supplements, plus unique packaging that is sure to please physical media fans and luddites alike. Revisit (or visit for the first time) one of Nicolas Cage’s key 90s performances with this Highly Recommended release.
Michael (Nicolas Cage, Wild at Heart), a discharged marine turned drifter, ends up in Red Rock, Wyoming in search of honest work. Wayne (J.T. Walsh, Breakdown), a local bar owner, offers Michael the dishonest work of carrying out a hit on his wife Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle, The Last Seduction) after mistaking him for the actual hitman, “Lyle, from Dallas”, that he hired to murder his spouse. Before Michael can split town with his downpayment, he runs into the real Lyle (Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet) and, from there, all hell breaks loose.
Directed and co-written by John Dahl (Kill Me Again), RED ROCK WEST is an endlessly twisty slice of distinctly American neo-noir set in the heartland of the United States. Featuring stellar performances from all three leads and a nearly repellent mean-streak, Dahl’s film is an often forgotten jewel of 90s crime cinema, making its US blu-ray debut in an all new restoration from Cinématographe.
directed by: John Dahl
starring: Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, J.T. Walsh
1993 / 98 min / 1.85:1 / English DTS-HD MA 2.0
- Region A Blu-ray
- New 4K Restoration of the 35mm Interpositive with original stereo soundtrack
- New interview with director and co-writer John Dahl
- New interview with co-director Rick Dahl
- New commentary track with historian Alain Silver and filmmaker Christopher Coppola
- "Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures" -- New video essay by Chris O'Neill
- Archival interview with editor Scott Chestnut
- "Caged In" -- Archival video essay by Petros Patsilivas
- New text essays by writers Jourdain Searles, Keith Phipps and Justin LaLiberty
- English SDH subtitles
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
I’m not quite sure if it’s because I’ve heard this remark from multiple people I’m close to or if this is a well-known fact, but Nicolas Cage puts Red Rock West up with some of his favorite performances. And as someone who has just watched the film for the first time, I can see why he may say that, although I do have a couple reservations. The film itself is kind of in the style of those direct-to-cable or -video thrillers from the early 90s, with what appears to be the flat, muted look that pervades that string of films. That being said, Dahl sidesteps and turns that look into something much more surreal, and ultimately, otherworldly. To this viewer, Red Rock West is married to its universe of noir trappings than anything else, thus it’s fair to read it as something that doesn’t reflect reality.
Red Rock West starts and ends with drifters. First, it’s Michael Williams (Nicolas Cage), a Texan driving to Wyoming to look for work on an oil field. His time as a Marine has left him with a bad limp, which proves to be a point of contention for the hiring manager at the oil field, leaving Michael to hit the road and find another way to make money. But when Michael arrives at a dusty bar and the owner, Wayne (J.T. Walsh), mistakes him for a hitman he hired to kill his wife, Michael chooses to take up the task. His mark is Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), who convinces Michael to turn on Wayne for twice the cash and promise of love. Michael tries to flee town, only to discover after quickly becoming involved in a car accident that Wayne is actually the sheriff of Red Rock. Oh, and the original hitman he hired, Lyle from Dallas (Dennis Hopper), just got to town and wants to get paid.
John Dahl aptly puts in the attached supplements on this release that Red Rock West is grown out of his love for spaghetti westerns and noirs, in particular the key sequence in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when the grand duel happens. Not because of the action, but because of the pure moral ambiguity of all these men. They’re all equally bad, drawn out into the light and forced to make a quick decision. It makes for wonderful entertainment, and the way Dahl uses common genre tropes to benefit a playful sense of humor only adds to that fact.
Some may find the film hokey, and I get why they may, however the understated Cage performance (yes, really) and over-the-top Dennis Hopper performance (per usual) kind of cancel each other out in interesting ways. I’m not saying that makes an excuse for what amounts to more homage than actual unique storytelling, but I find the way in which Dahl plays with genre to be much more fun than many filmmakers. Plus, you know, Dennis Hopper at his Looney Tunes best and Lara Flynn Boyle smoldering at every turn, it’s like walking into a David Lynch tangent in certain sequences.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
Red Rock West finally makes its US Blu-ray debut thanks to Vinegar Syndrome with a single-disc (BD50) release that comes housed in a cloth-bound mediabook with an embossed foil title, a custom disc tray with the Cinématographe logo debossed on it and three essays. The mediabook is then housed in a slipcase that’s similar to the feel of the material used on Vinegar Syndrome’s box sets, plus an accompanying j-card with movie and supplement details that’s individually numbered. The disc boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio and video, select chapters and browse bonus features. Oh, right, what’s the best part of the new mediabook packaging? It has that new book smell! I’m not kidding!
Red Rock West has received a few recent Blu-ray releases in non-US territories, but I’m eager to report that this new 1080p presentation sourced from a 4K scan of the interpositive truly blows those other releases out of the water. From the opening credits, a healthy grain field gives way to beautiful textures on clothes, faces and the wonderful production design. The way dust kicks around the Red Rock Bar once again proved to me just how anemic some of those previous transfers have looked. And I do understand this master not being right for a 2160p presentation, as it is more on the darker side. That’s not to say that the detail isn’t there for HDR and 2160p to be a benefit, but it’d be rather minor given the look of the film. No major source damage to report, and no encoding anomalies to note. This is truly the best the film has looked at home, so kudos to Cinématographe for delivering the goods right out of the gate.
The original 2.0 track is presented in the DTS-HD MA codec and is overall very good. Dialogue is clear and crisp, with that William Olvis electronic score combined very naturally. I did notice a couple pops during one scene, although it was clear they were cleaned up to prevent blowing out your speakers. Otherwise, the source is in good condition. This isn’t the most creative or active soundtrack in the world, but everything here is presented well.
As mentioned previously, Red Rock West has had a few releases internationally, thus Cinématographe had a bit of a challenge to compete. Luckily, they’ve provided new interviews with John and Rick Dahl, the latter of whom hasn’t had an interview on Blu-ray releases until now. Both newly produced interviews bring terrific context to the production, with John Dahl talking about his direct, indirect and surprise influences that helped to morph Red Rock West into something real and unique. The new video essay is similarly illuminating and focuses on the neo-noir genre, plus all three booklet essays provide unique views on the film, its influences and history. This is a very nicely curated collection of supplements that prevents repeating itself too much in terms of content and comments.
- Audio commentary with film noir scholar Alan Silver and Christopher Coppola
- John Dahl: A Thousand Miles from Nowhere – Interview with John Dahl (HD 26:33)
- Rick Dahl: Neon and Dust – Interview with co-writer Rick Dahl (HD 17:17)
- Interview with editor Scott Chestnut (HD 21:48)
- Video essay by Chris O’Neill (HD 13:46)
- Archival video essay by Petros Patsilivas (HD 9:19)
- Text essays by Justin LaLiberty, Keith Phipps and Jourdain Searles
Nic Cage is in full Cage mode and Dennis Hopper is there to party in John Dahl’s Red Rock West, an underrated neo-noir from the 90s that has fun playing with multiple genres to make something unique. Vinegar Syndrome's newly minted physical media sub-label Cinématographe provides the film with a stunning new presentation sourced from a new 4K restoration, plus a great collection of physical and digital features sure to please everyone. This twisty, turny and fun movie comes in a Highly Recommended release.
Order Your Copy of Red Rock West on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome
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