As I continue on with my 2016 Great 80's Movie List, the 1988 cult film Young Guns had been on the top of my list for a while and planned to see it this summer. However, I couldn't get my hands on it, nor was it run on TV (I would think AMC would have played it at least once, while The American West was running). Then I found that my brother owned a copy this entire time and (like with Legends of The Fall and The Untouchables), I swiped it from him.
Although the story is about notorious wild west outlaw, Billy the Kidd, to go and say this was a 'historical film' would be something of a stretch. Hollywood has never gotten history right and that was certainly the truth in the 1980's. Yet, the movie is a huge 80's favorite because of its cast of leading men that were up and coming in their careers, including Brat Packer Emilio Estevez, typecast villain Kiefer Sutherland and Red Dawn's Charlie Sheen (also Emilio Estevez's younger brother). Another reason for it's longevity was the 80's vibe music that was used for the score, which actually sounded pretty cool.
|Top: L-R, Lou Diamond Phillips as Chavez, Casey Siemazsko as Charlie and Dermot Mulroney as Steve|
Bottom: L-R: Kiefer Sutherland as Doc, Emilio Estevez as Billy and Charlie Sheen as Dick
In 1877, the west is being settled by greedy business owners, dishonest politicians and productive cattle barons. In Lincoln, New Mexico, English born John Tunstall (Terence Stamp) is one of the wealthiest cattle ranchers in the country. He is honest, moral minded, well educated and a hard worker. These qualities don't deter John from the realities of the world and from people who suffer from poverty, illiteracy and want. So, John takes in young men from troubled backgrounds, gives them decent work, a good education and teaches them how to live in society. One of these men is William H. Bonny, a thief and gun slinger running from the law.
While there Billy meets The Regulators.
Josiah "Doc" Spurlock, a former outlaw turned gentleman rancher (uncharacteristically played by Kiefer Sutherland as the moral compass and romantic of the group).
Jose Chavez Y Chavez, a Navajo Indian who has lost his family and his people.
Charlie Bowdre, a fun loving wrangler with a lot of mouth.
"Dirty" Steve Stephens, well his name says it all.
Richard M. "Dick" Brewer, John's sensible, no-nonsense foreman.
Billy soon begins to feel like he has a family and a future, yet John has no shortage of enemies of businessmen. Known as The Ring, they are led by Lawrence Murphy, who can't abide John's moral virtue and his refusal to give into their corrupt ways.
John is eventually killed by assassins set out by The Ring, but they are never called into court because Murphy owns the town and no one wants to take him on. So, The Regulators are sworn in as deputies and they go on a hunt to find John's assassins. However, Billy is not one to play by the rules and he begins a bloodbath of revenge and vindication. Soon, The Regulators become outlaws with nowhere to go and increasingly no hope of survival from Murphy and The Ring.
Being a western, there was no shortage of gun fighting, blood and testosterone filled action. And while riddled with inaccuracies, the movie was a fun watch, with a great cast that blended well together in every scene. I have to say the rock music score was awesome. It added to the pace of the film and matched the youthful recklessness of its lead characters. The movie balances between action, comedy and even a small amount of romance and by no means has any boring moments at all. Another great example of Hollywood 80's moviemaking that didn't stick to the rules, but definitely made history fun to watch.