Red Rock West
is a neo-noir 1992
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
who 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 the country as an art house hit.
plays Michael, a drifter who wanders into rural Red Rock, Wyoming looking for work. When a local bar owner Wayne (J.T. Walsh
) mistakes him for the hit man — "Lyle from Dallas" — he's hired to kill his wife, Michael doesn't correct him. Instead, he takes the money, then attempts to warn the wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle
) that her life is in danger. She, in turn, tries to hire him to kill her husband. Michael, knowing that the longer he stays in town the more danger he'll get into, continually tries to leave town, with no success. Matters only worsen when he becomes romantically involved with Suzanne...and when "Lyle from Dallas" (Dennis Hopper
) finally does show up.
Red Rock West
was made in 1992 in Arizona
on a budget of $7 million. 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
. 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." 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. Columbia sold Red Rock West
to cable and it was shown seven times on HBO
in the fall of 1993.
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. 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. The film had already played on HBO at this point and was due to come out on video in February. 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. 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
. The closing credits song is "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere", by Dwight Yoakam
, who also made his film acting debut in the film.
In his review for the Washington Post
, Richard Harrington praised it as "a treasure waiting to be discovered." In the New York Times
, Caryn James called it "a terrifically enjoyable, smartly acted, over-the-top thriller."