John Dahl

John Dahl

Dahl entered the industry as a storyboard artist on "A" films ("Something Wild" 1986; "Married to the Mob" 1988) and an assistant director on "B" genre fare ("The Dungeonmaster" 1983). He made his first feature as a student at Montana State University--"The Death Mutants" (1980), a horror/sci-fi send-up. Dahl moved to L.A. where he attended the American Film Institute as a directing fellow. After making some well-received shorts, including "The Ugliest Family in the World," he shifted to music videos filming such artists as Kool and the Gang and J Satriani.Dahl found his voice as a director with the moody "Kill Me Again" (1989), featuring Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as a femme fatale who tours the West double-crossing the mob and luring unsuspecting men into her web. Largely ignored by the public, the film raised eyebrows among industry insiders. His follow-up, "Red Rock West" (1993), told a familiar hard-boiled story: seduction, double-crosses, and murder ensue when a stranger pulls into town and gets confused for a hit man hired to kill the slyly adulterous wife of the local sheriff. The film garnered at least as much attention for the way it reached the big screen as for its considerable merits. Originally acquired for TV distribution by HBO, the film received such raves on the festival circuit that it was picked up for theatrical release on a platform basis.Staying with the familiar, Dahl's next effort "The Last Seduction" (1994), once again found it's way to the silver screen via the back roads of TV. This time out, Linda Fiorentino starred as a cold-hearted woman who steals drug money from her weasel of a husband (Bill Pullman) and lures a bumpkin from the country into a world of treachery and murder. The film received numerous accolades with many critics hailing Dahl as a filmmaker to watch. Dahl ventured once again into film noir with "Unforgettable" (1996), starring Ray Liotta as a medical examiner living under the dark cloud of his wife's murder. Once accused of the crime, but released on a technicality, the medical examiner uses a strange new method-injecting the traumatic memories of his wife into himself-to find her killer. Though it made very little money, "Unforgettable" was hailed by critics as one of Dahl's best films.With "Rounders" (1998), Dahl took the typically avoided subject of poker and used it to create a dark film about the seedy underground world of gambling. Starring Matt Damon as a reformed card shark and Ed Norton as his best friend recently released from prison, "Rounders" explored the seductive side of high-stakes gambling. The result was a well-crafted film that helped propel Norton and Damon further into the limelight. Dahl's next movie, "Joyride" (2001), starring Steve Zahn, Paul Walker and Leelee Sobieski, continued his fascination with the noir-thriller. While on a summer road trip, a college student (Walker), his girlfriend (Sobieski) and his brother (Zahn) pull a practical joke on a trucker that gets turned back on them with deadly intentions. Once again, Dahl was praised by critics for his deft handling of the genre.For his next film, "The Great Raid" (2005), Dahl stepped outside his comfort zone of low-budget thrillers to direct an epic war movie. Based on the true story about the 6th Ranger Battalion team that went 30 miles behind Japanese lines to rescue 500 POWs from the notorious Cabanatuan prison camp during World War II, "The Great Raid" proved to be too much movie for Dahl to handle. Though sticking to historical events and real-life characterizations, Dahl failed miserably to recapture the lost honor and glory that once permeated the World War II movies of yesteryear. A product of a bygone era, "The Great Raid" rang a false note despite its well-meaning intentions.