Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 30, 2021)
Reviewed by David Williams/Colin Jacobson (March 30, 2021)
Back in 1988, Young Guns offered the epitome of the Brat Pack’s infiltration into all aspects of Hollywood and society in general. The film never intended to offer a historically accurate – heck, it didn’t even pretend to be serious for that matter.
Young Guns just became a good excuse for a small fraternity of young, handsome, Hollywood male leads to spend someone else’s money and play a grand game of “Cowboys and Indians” complete with real horses, guns that shot blanks, and some really cool costumes.
They barely needed to act, as the majority of the time, the actors simply preened, cavorted, and indulged themselves like a group of fraternity brothers kicking up their heels in the Old West.
John Ford this ain’t. The opening sequence speaks volumes to that fact as we get a lingering close-up of each actor’s face.
Then, as a really bad 80’s soundtrack synthetically rumbles in the background, the guys fire at the camera – or at nothing really. As the smoke clears, they gaze at the camera with the smug authority of Brat Pack arrogance.
Young Guns catches up with William H. Bonney – aka “Billy The Kid” (Emilio Estevez) - during his days in Lincoln County, New Mexico prefacing what would become the “Lincoln County War”. The War came about because local cattlemen John Tunstall (Terence Stamp) and Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance), couldn’t get along, as each wanted the other out of business.
Both parties hire gunslingers and laborers to protect their interests and their own well being. Tunstall’s men appreciate the work and see Tunstall as the father most of them never had. Eventually Billy The Kid shows up to work on the farm as well, where he fits right in with the motley crew.
One day Tunstall gets gunned down in an ambush by some of Murphy’s men. When local attorney Alex McSween (Terry O'Quinn) deputize the six men as “Regulators”, things go from bad to worse.
With all of my smarmy comments at the beginning of the review, you might think that I didn’t enjoy Young Guns. Actually, I did, as I was one of those 18-year-old kids in the audience with a date who thought how cool it’d be to have fame, fortune, and women at my beckoned call.
That being said, I like the film for what it is: a mindless, shoot-em-up Western that doesn’t require much more from the viewer. That’s the exact same reason I enjoy it today.
Sure it’s cheesy and dated, but it’s also fast-paced, action-packed, and a lot of fun if you check your brain at the door.
Everyone has films like Young Guns that they enjoy despite they fact they “know better”. While we may crucify a hundred other films for being as badly written/directed/acted/executed as Young Guns, some of us find room in our cold hearts to forgive director Christopher Cain and all of the smug, self-congratulatory actors in the film.
We just sit back and enjoy the ride. I hate to admit it, but it was a lot of fun to revisit this film after all of these years.