Young Guns (1988) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Young Guns is a guilty pleasure cold war era western. The cast is compromised of six actors, some of which were part of the infamous “brat pack” grouping, who portray an outlaw gang out for revenge. Emilio Estevez, arguably in his signature role, is Billy “the kid” and his wise-ass, impatient, often cackling representation of the famed fugitive is the best thing in Young Guns.

English gentleman turned cattle rancher John Tunstall (Terence Stamp) hires young wayward gunmen to tend to his vast property and livestock in return for food, shelter, and a proper education. When men hired by rival rancher Murphy (Jack Palance) murder Tunstall, the young men are forced to become outlaws for justice. The outlaw posse turned deputized officers are dubbed “The Regulators”, and is composed of Dick (Charlie Sheen), Doc (Kiefer Sutherland), Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), “Dirty Steve” (Dermot Mulroney), and Charlie (Casey Sizemore). Lead by Billy (Emilio Estevez), “The Regulators” are dispatched to hunt down the men responsible for the town’s corruption and the murder of their mentor.

If Top Gun is guilty of 1980’s kitsch by trivializing war and turning it into a music video, than Young Guns is culpable of exploiting the Johnson County War and turning it into the equivalent of a cinematic teen pin-up magazine. It may be fun to gaze at, but after a while the experience becomes an exercise in matinĂ©e idol worshipping. I do like the inclusion of scenes like the peyote sequence and the dinner table scene where the boys chide Billy, but the movie is lightweight, and it’s cast feel like posers in the genre. The theme music is fantastic and Estevez aptly conveys the impetuous nature of Billy’s youthful vigor, but the flatness of the film in visual compositions, production design and pacing eventually overtake the movie’s few good qualities.

Director: Christopher Cain
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips

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