Release Year: 1988
Director: Christopher Cain
Writer: John Fusco
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Philips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terence Stamp, Jack Palance, Terry O’Quinn, Sharon Thomas,
In order to avenge the murder of their benefactor, Billy the Kid and his gang become deputies, but when the wild six take it too far, they become the hunted.
The Brat Pack were some of the biggest young stars in the 1980’s and Young Guns is their attempt at an action-packed western. Based around the Lincoln County war, this is something as rare as a Billy the Kid movie that doesn’t focus on his rivalry with Pat Garret, although Garret does make an appearance in the film. Estevez (The Breakfast Club, 1985) is quite good as the young gunslinger and portrays him as a devil-may-care borderline psychotic youngster, which is perhaps not far from the truth. As a result, Billy the Kid remains very much an anti-hero throughout and although he has redeeming qualities, their is no real attempt here at romanticising him or portraying him as a tragic character to be pitied which works to the film’s benifit. Estevez is surrounded by a great cast of character’s as Billy the Kid’s gang, most notably his brother Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots!, 1991) as the natural leader and most sensible of them, Kiefer Sutherland (Stand By Me, 1986) as a poetic Doc, and Lou Diamond Phillips (Courage Under Fire, 1996) as the Mexican native with a sad history. Opposite them in a truly nasty villain role is a great Jack Palance (Arrowhead, 1953) who has played many despicable characters in westerns as well as other films and is a seasoned counter weight to the young stars. The film seems very well researched with a historically accurate rendition of the period, but it is marred by overuse of slowmotion, poor editing, and a terribly dated and ill-fitting 1980’s score. Recommended to fans of the brat pack and Billy the Kid, this 1980’s western action is an entertaining watch if you do not have too high expectations.
Like practically all other films depicting the event of the Lincoln County war, John Tunstall, played here by Terence Stamp, is depicted as an elderly and sophisticated man when in fact he was only 24 at the time and younger than most of Billy the Kid’s gang.
Cameo: In the shootout scene, Tom Cruise can be seen hiding behind the barricades on the street wearing a moustache.
Picture Copyright: Nordisk Film