Film noir has been around since the years following World War II, yet it has managed to keep the same characteristics it originally had. There have been many movies than may have film noir characteristics, but few can claim to be a true film noir. In recent years, the only major change made to the style of film noir has been the addition of color. Red Rock West is a 90 s version of film noir, yet it still carries most, if not all, of the characteristics of classical film noir.Mike, the protagonist of the film, is a veteran of Vietnam wandering through life just trying to get by. He drives into an oil drilling site to start a job his friend had set up for him, only he finds out that the job is not yet his. When he tells the boss about the knee injury he has, he loses all chances of getting the job. The boss cannot hire him because his insurance premiums would rise, and once again Mike s honesty prevents him from getting anywhere in life. This is consistent with film noir as Mike is alienated from the world and cannot fit into society. He is also a veteran, but of Vietnam and not of the usual World War II. Mike continues to feel the effects of Vietnam through his knee injury and his inability to fit in with the world.As is always true of film noir, the characters are all obsessed with something. Lyle is an obsessive killer, Mike is obsessed with staying alive, and Suzanne and Wayne are obsessed with money. After Lyle and Wayne start trying to kill Mike, he goes back to try and save Suzanne from the same fate. Instead, she ends up seducing him and them betraying him for the money in the end. She is a single minded individual, with only money on her mind. She is the typical female seductive betrayer. In this film, everybody double crosses each other, such as when Mike chooses not to kill Suzanne for Wayne, but to instead kill Wayne for Suzanne. Then he tries to double cross Suzanne by driving out of town with both Wayne and Suzanne s money. This is exactly the type of corruption and greed that is inherent in film noir.
The filming techniques used in Red Rock West are also the same types used in film noir. There is a dark, dreary tone to the film, and the colors are kept to a very dull palette to give the viewer the impression of watching a black and white film. Venetian blinds, which were used extensively in film noir, are also utilized in this film. A few such instances are when Mike and Suzanne are in the office and the light is coming from the outside through the blinds, when they are in the closet in the same scene, and the camera shoots the two and Wayne all at the same time with the sparse light of the blinds. The ending scene is especially true to the film noir tradition, in that it is shot with pale, mostly black and white scenery and fog covering the area. There is a shot of Mike running through the dark, foggy night, which is one of the trademarks of film noir.Red Rock West, in almost every way save color, is a film noir. It has all the necessary elements, it uses the same stereotypical characters, and it uses the same filming techniques. If this film were shown in black and white, it would be essentially a film noir. The only thing that would convince me otherwise would be the unusually high quality of the filming, due to the large budget which film noir never had. Red Rock West proves beyond a doubt that film noir is still alive today, and it will continue to be around for a long time.