Young Guns (1988)

Apparently, all you have to do to make the Brat Pack look tough, is give them guns.

In 1878, six rebellious young men are roaming around the West, kicking ass, taking names, all to avenge the death of their ranch owner. Their names? The Regulators. But most people know them by their leader, Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez), the toughest gunslinger in all the land.

Westerns are cool, right? But what about Westerns from the 80’s, that feature stars from The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

Uhm, never mind. Westerns aren’t so cool anymore.

Although, as much as I may crap on this movie in the next few minutes or so, there is no denying that this movie can sometimes actually be fun, if only when it’s paying attention to the actual action and nothing but. Director Christopher Cain obviously knows what he wants to do with this material, as cheesy as it may be, but takes chances here because he’s not all that afraid to be a little bloody, a dirty, and in-your-face at the same time. There’s a great amount of energy that’s brought to this flick every time the action pops up, which also gives more credit to the powers that be who were behind this not backing down and slapping it with the PG-13 rating. Westerns aren’t supposed to be pretty, or even lovely – they’re supposed to be ugly, dirty creations where even uglier, dirtier creations inhabit it and there’s something worth commending on the part of Cain for at least noticing this, even if it is for only when the guns are shooting, bullets are flying, and people are dropping like flies all over the place.

Eh. Take it easy, not-Martin Sheen.
Eh. Take it easy, not-Martin Sheen.

Problem is, once the action ceases, the movie’s true problems begin to show.

Right from the start of the flick, you know that it’s going to be corny (it’s an 80’s flick), but the movie really delivers on the cheese, and then some. The script is made out to where these guys think their all tough by waving around guns and talking like rough, ragged grown-ass men, when in reality, they look a little too pretty and handsome to even be considered a bunch of dirty gun-slingers, making them all unbelievable as protagonists. Let alone, ones that are supposed to be some of the most terrifying shooters in all the land. Even if they called up Clint Eastwood, it still would have been hard to see these guys as anything but stars of high school 80’s classics, as most of them were by this point.

What’s even worse about these characters though, is that we never ever really get the chance to care about them. Which is of course to say that the writing for them is terrible, but at a certain point, it doesn’t even seem like the movie’s even trying. Instead, it seems like the creators behind it thought that just by casting these well-known, likable stars in these roles was enough to make them at least somewhat sympathetic, but that’s not what happens here. In order for us to root for these characters, you have to give us more than just a pretty, recognizable face; they need to have something of personalities, and not just any kinds, but ones that are worth getting behind.

Because, for the most part, the scenes with them are just dedicated to constant talking about their lives, women, and shootin’ folks, but it’s written in such a goofy way, it’s hard to ever take any of it seriously, let alone even care. The movie deserves some credit for at least trying to hash these characters out into being more than just stereotypes, but because the script doesn’t work, they seem exactly like that – just a bunch of hammy, macho d-bags who have too much time on their hands.

Not even Jack Palance could save this. Shame.
Not even Jack Palance could save this. Shame.

Speaking of these a-holes, the cast tries and tries again with these poorly-written characters, but just can’t seem to overcome the inherent problems plaguing this movie at nearly every turn. Of course, Emilio Estevez probably has the best performance out of the bunch as Billy the Kid, but even he got on my nerves after awhile. In most folklore that you read about the Kid, we’re always told that he was a cocky, arrogant prick, which may or may not be true to begin with, but that doesn’t make for a compelling lead protagonist. It just leaves us with someone not worth caring about one bit. Though Esteves may have the most charisma out of the whole ensemble, but that’s not really saying much when you take a look at the rest of the buffoons backing him up.

As for the rest, nobody really does much. But then again, they aren’t given much to do, so I guess they could only do what they were told. Kiefer Sutherland spends the majority of this movie either moping, yelling, dreaming over some random Asian gal that he meets for three minutes and falls in love with, and it gets real old, real quick; Lou Diamond Phillips plays the stereotypical Native American character that instead of shooting, throws knives, and goes on and on about his heritage and what his people had to go through, which, yet again, gets real old, real quick; Charlie Sheen has some nice moments, because he’s Charlie Sheen for gosh sakes, but they are very few and far between and doesn’t take away from the fact that he doesn’t have much in him to make this movie a whole lot better; Dermot Mulroney barely does anything here other than look dirty and chew a lot of tobacco; and Casey Siemaszko is just here and doesn’t really do much, which is pretty much a perfect summation of his career as a whole.

Poor guy. I hope he still gets some cash from this to get him through the day.

Consensus: There’s a gritty, raw and sometimes incredibly violent Western tucked inside of Young Guns, but it hardly ever comes out in a full-on, effective form, mostly due to the fact that the ensemble aren’t given anything to do.

3 /10 

Come on, boys! Real men don't cry! You pansies!
Come on, boys! Real men don’t cry! You pansies!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images


  1. Ah, man – I haven’t seen this in a very long time, but it’s etched in my mind that it was ace. I’m now weary about revisiting it.

  2. Great review, Dan. Too bad you didn’t like this one. It’s one of my favorite westerns. I might be biased by age, though. I saw it as a kid shortly after it came out and I’ve loved it ever since even through recent viewings. My only area where I would strongly disagree with you is in saying that a cocky arrogant prick doesn’t make for a good protagonist. There are plenty of great ones that are exactly that. The entire MCU is built around Tony Stark. Who is cockier and more arrogant than him?

  3. It probably helps your enjoyment if you were smack in the middle of the target audience (16 year old girls) when it came out.

    Kiefer Sutherland spends the majority of this movie either moping, yelling, dreaming over some random Asian gal that he meets for three minutes and falls in love with, and it gets real old, real quick

    Other than the specific ethnicity of the girl in question, this is *all* Kiefer Sutherland roles. One of the reasons why he was never one of my personal heartthrobs. Well, that and he’s blonde, I always preferred broody brunettes instead. Lou Diamond Phillips? Yum!

  4. Now I know the true reason I have never re-visited this movie. Ugh. Nice review, Dan. A fun read bro 🙂

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