Three of the original five "young guns" — Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez), Jose Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), and Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland) — return in Young Guns, Part 2, which is the story of Billy the Kid and his race to safety in Old Mexico while being trailed by a group of government agents led by Pat Garrett.
Yoo hoo, I'll make you famous.
Young Guns II is directed by Geoff Murphy and written by John Fusco. It stars Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, William Petersen, Alan Ruck, Vigo Mortensen and Balthazar Getty. Music is scored by Alan Silvestri, with contributions from Jon Bon Jovi, and cinematography is by Dean Semler.
Brushy Bill Roberts, old and crusty, claims to be Billy The Kid. Which is quite a claim considering the Kid was long thought to have been killed by Patrick Floyd Garrett in 1881. Roberts tells a listening historian that after the break up of the Tunstall Regulators, the remaining members hooked up with Garrett and Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh and still lived the outlaw life...
Young Guns was released in 1988 and became a big enough hit to warrant this sequel two years later. Reuniting gunslingers Billy the Kid (Estevez), Doc Scurlock (Sutherland) and Chavez (Phillips) from the first film, Young Guns II follows the same formula that worked so well two years previously. Billy is still a borderline nut case and his gang, for better or worse, follow him into a number of escapades. This time around, though, we have some added interest in the form of Christian Slater's cocky Rudabaugh, who, as an egotist, wants to run the gang himself. Things are further given a lift when Garrett (a darn fine William Petersen resplendent with major face fuzz) leaves the gang and is persuaded to become a law man. His first job being of course to catch Billy!
Both Young Guns movies are frowned upon by many old school Western purists, which to a degree I understand. They lack any sort of psychological aspects outside of a brat packer like cast shooting and quipping with care free abandon. Character depth is lacking so there is nothing on which to hang your hat on. Here, much like the first film, creative license is used with historical facts but the core basis of story is solid, with many of the events leading up to the documented death of Billy the Kid holding true. Major problem here, though, is that the makers are spinning off from the iffy claim of Brushy Bill Roberts that he was Billy the Kid and did not die at the hands of Pat Garrett. Knowing Billy survives the pursuit and show-down with Garrett at the start of the film kind of dilutes the wonder and impending drama! Film also at times feels like a composite of Little Big Man, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and of course Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.
However, both films, and more so with this sequel, have such a sense of fun like homage to them it's not hard to forgive the obvious flaws. Action is plentiful, with much blood shed during the course of the story, while the story always remains intriguing by way of the character dynamics. Semler's photography is more in tune with the Wild West this time around, as is Silvestri's score, the latter of which lifts parts of his "Predator" arrangement to blend with more traditional cowboy harmonies. Great song from Bon Jovi to close the film down as well.
There's a nice link to Peckinpah's movie with an important cameo for James Coburn as John Chisum (Coburn played Pat Garrett in Peckinpah's pic). But most of all it's just great fun to be in the company of Estevez's Billy, it's true enough to say it comes at the expense of the other characters around him, for it's a film owning show, which also dubiously swerves us into cheering for the baby faced "outlaw hero". Yet it plays out as a rollicking good ride in spite of some grey area thematics and a roll call of clichés. And boys, oh boys, Jenny Wright pops in to raise the temperatures considerably with a Lady Godiva moment. If for nothing else, the Young Guns movies got people talking about the Western genre in the MTV age, so that has to be a bonus to the discerning Western fan.
Acknowledge the faults by all means, but viewing them as gun slinging fun wrapped around real Western folklore might just help you enjoy the experience a touch more. 7/10
Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox by Geoff Murphy, John Fusco.
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips.
Genres: Action, Western
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