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Red Rock West

(1993, Dahl)
A film with a title that starts with Q or R

"You're a nice guy, aren't you, Michael?"
"I try to be."

Red Rock West follows Michael (Nicolas Cage), a drifter desperately looking for a job in rural Wyoming. In the process, he finds himself in the middle of a misunderstanding when a bar owner (J.T. Walsh) mistakes him for a hitman he hired to murder his wife (Lara Flynn Boyle). Things get even more complicated when the actual hitman (Dennis Hopper) arrives and stumbles upon Michael.

Michael is, essentially, a "nice guy" and the film makes a point of letting us know that he is. From his unwillingness to hide an injury that costs him a job or his inability to steal some money from an unsupervised cash register to endanger himself by going back into Red Rock to warn the wife, Suzanne, that her husband, Wayne, wanted to have her killed. It is that conversation the one that prompts the above quoted response from her.

It is perhaps that "niceness" what ends up getting Michael in more and more trouble. Once he enters Red Rock, every "nice" action he does ends up sinking him deeper into the mess. The film has a few twists and a certain grit to it that just makes it work, in addition to its neo-noir vibe, which reminds me of classic film noirs like Detour or maybe even D.O.A. to some extent.

Cage has always done a great job portraying vulnerable guys that are cornered into complicated situations all while trying to come afloat and still be "nice". He's also paired with a solid supporting cast, with Hopper easily having the meatier role. His performance as Lyle (from Dallas) is not equal to Frank Booth, but it's somewhere in that area. Walsh and Boyle are both pretty good too.

It's possible that I rented this film back in the 1990s, but I can't remember. So when a good friend recommended it to me, it was nice to follow through and finally catch up with it.