Retro Movie Review: ‘Young Guns,’ Starring; Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland
This week we travel back to 1988 and the wild, wild west. No, not the Will Smith turd from years back, but a little western film called ‘Young Guns.’
This film features a strong cast and a pretty good screenplay to boot. Emilio Estevez stars as Billy the Kid, along with Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, and Casey Siemaszko. At the time, these actors were probably some of the hottest young stars in Hollywood, which made ‘Young Guns’ even more enjoyable. Yes, that’s right, The Brat Pack goes to the Old West.
The year is 1878 in Lincoln County, as John Tunstall, played by Terence Stamp, a British ranch owner hired six young gunslingers, also referred to a Regulators to protect his ranch against a murderous Santa Fe Ring. The outlaws eventually gun down Tunstall in front of his boys, creating a firestorm of shootouts and horse chases. Led by the wild-eyed Billy the Kid, played by Estevez, the Regulators set out on a bloody rampage, as they are branded outlaws.
‘Young Guns’ is nothing more than a pure shoot-em-up action film from the start. If you go into it expecting that, and not expecting a true wild west story, then you will not be disappointed. The acting is solid, as the young stars each get their chance to shine. Estevez’ Billy the Kid is so over the top and steals just about every scene he’s in that it is difficult to focus on the other actors at times, but the talented Sutherland and Phillips manage to stand out. Even Siemaszko and Mulroney manage to hold their own, as their characters are both very likable and you find yourself cheering for them at the end of the film, even though not everyone survives. The surprise of the film for me was Sheen’s role. Sheen has a couple scenes early on, but eventually meets his surprising demise.
Directed by Christopher Cain, who later directed The Next Karate Kid and The Amazing Panda Adventure, the film comes off less like an authentic western, but more like a Top Gun in the wild west. If you’re looking for an authentic western, watch Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven.’ ‘Young Guns,’ while likeable, is probably one of the most unrealistic western films to come along in quite a while, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If I wanted the true story, I’d open a history book. I’m looking to be entertained for 90 minutes, not educated.
While the film did spawn a less-successful, but admirable sequel, ‘Young Guns II,’ with the surviving cast along with Christian Slater and William Peterson, the first film has garnered a cult-like following in the 20-plus years since its release. If you don’t believe the film is still popular, Estevez just did a private autograph signing, where next to Mighty Ducks memorabilia, Young Guns was the next most popular merchandise that he signed.
While unrealistic and sometimes uneven, ‘Young Guns’ is still one of the more enjoyable films from the 80s. Even though it’s not historically accurate, the film is fun and enjoyable, which is what movies are all about.
‘Young Guns’ gets a B+.