Young Guns (1988)

Six reasons why the west was wild.

A group of young gunmen, led by Billy the Kid, become deputies to avenge the murder of the rancher who became their benefactor. But when Billy takes their authority too far, they become the hunted.

If we're caught, we're gonna hang... But there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.
Young Guns is directed by Christopher Cain and written by John Fusco. It stars Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terry O'Quinn, Jack Palance and Terence Stamp. Music is by Brian Banks and Anthony Marinelli and cinematography is by Dean Semler.
Film is a telling of Billy the Kid's part in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico 1878. Plot sees the murder of John Tunstall send Billy and the rest of the Tunstall Regulators on a mission to avenge his murder.
It ain't easy having pals.
Often derided by Western movie purists as a sort of MTV Western made to showcase the various talents of the then Hollywood Brat Pack of Estevez, Sheen, Sutherland et al, Young Guns is actually a far more entertaining picture than some critical assessments suggest it is. It also has some rock solid Western history footings holding it up, yes it's far from accurate in various scenarios, age of characters and numbers in gangs etc, but the core story of the Lincoln County War is there. A massive success at the box office and spawning an equally successful sequel in 1990, Young Guns zips along at pace, contains high energy action sequences and provides plenty of quotable dialogue. Best of all, though, it doesn't take itself seriously, it wants to be a rooting-tooting Western of fun endeavours, if viewed on those terms it's an absolute winner, especially since the cast are playing it that way.
Alex, if you stay they're gonna kill you. And then I'm gonna have to go around and kill all the guys who killed you. That's a lot of killing.
Estevez is terrific as The Kid, blending boyish arrogance with fearless rage, a fun and scary character who is easy to get on the saddle with. Elsewhere it's a mixed bag, but apart from the disappointing Sheen, the casting decisions sit well and if you talk to ten different Young Guns fans you will most likely get a number of different answers come back as to who is their favourite Regulator (mine is Dirty Steve played by Mulroney if you are wondering?). O'Quinn is spot on as Alex McSween, Stamp adds classical tones to the ill fated John Tunstall and Palance is a neat fit as villain Lawrence Murphy. Nice to see Brian Keith get a cameo as a larger than life bounty hunter as well. Semler's photography and Cain's filming techniques are a bit too anachronistic at times and the Banks/Marinelli score too modern an accompaniment on occasions. But film rounds out as a nifty bit of Oater play for Gen X and showed that as the 1990s approached there was still love for this greatest of genres. 7.5/10

Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox by Christopher Cain, John Fusco.
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen.

Genres: Action, Western

Keywords: corruption sheriff deputy sheriff ranch billy the kid outlaw neighbor

08/12/1988

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