There’s a moment in John Dahl’s Red Rock West that some might look at and wonder why it’s there. It’s the first meeting between Nicholas Cage’s Michael and the hired killer known as Lyle from Dallas (Dennis Hopper)
Hopper gives Cage a ride, and they discover that they have something in common – They were both Marines. Cages’ Michael is, in fact, is a survivor of the horrific 1983 Beirut truck bombing that claimed the lives of over 200 Marines. Lyle exclaims, “You’re one lucky Son-of-a-bitch!” and Michael replies with a bit of irritation “I KNOW I was. 241 guys weren’t.”…And Lyle nods softly in agreement.
The Marine connection surfaces again at the films climax, in the form of a little tongue-in-cheek visual joke, but what makes this moment so memorable for me is that this is one of the rare times where a film takes a few moments to prise open a bad guy and shine a little light in. Lyle is a cold killer, a Hopper loony to rank alongside his best, but in this small, seemingly insignificant moment, we get to see him for a tiny bit more.