Young Guns (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I told the Billy the Kid story at length in my essay on Young Guns 2, so I think I'll talk a bit about the stars.
The essence of the marketing plan was to put six hot young stars together and create some real box office zing. It worked fairly well. The film wasn't the smash they hoped for, but it grossed $44 million domestically, and has accumulated $20 million in rentals over the years. 

But what happened to the six hot stars? Sic transit gloria mundi. 


a frontier hooker exposes a nipple briefly, in preparation for a non-sexual sex scene with Siemaszko (actress: Lisa Banes)

Emilio Estevez shows his butt when he gets out of a tub

Charlie Sheen, still only 35, was up there in the firmament in the late 80's. Pretty heady stuff for a kid barely in his 20's. Wall Street, Platoon, Major League, Eight Men Out. Some good films, and some other films which were ideal for him. (His "Wild Thing" role in Major League and his role as Happy Felsch in Eight Men Out let him fulfill his childhood dream of baseball stardom.) He kept his name in the headlines for years, but as time went on he got more press for his personal life than for his movie roles. His renowned sexual prowess, dating porn stars, drug arrests, bursts of violent temper, and his top spot on the Heidi Fleiss list all combined to make him a legendary party boy in the old Hollywood mode. He could have taught Dick Janssen and Bill Holden a trick or two in his day.

As time went on, though, the good-natured jokes about him turned sour. The good roles dried up. He didn't stay in top physical condition, and he didn't prove to be a versatile actor with a great variety of characterizations. The limitations of his ability don't need to be crippling, and I think he could be excellent in comedies, but as I write this he hasn't really managed to find a niche to restore him to his former stardom, and it's not a good sign that he's played himself in a couple of recent films (although he did it with good natured self-deprecating humor).

Sheen's brother, Emilio, 38, (Sheen's real name is Carlos Estevez) has pretty much dropped out of mainstream acting to concentrate on producing and directing. He recently directed Rated X, the saga of the Mitchell brothers. 

Lou Diamond Phillips, 39,  and Kiefer Sutherland, 34, continue to work steadily, but it is an understatement to say that they have no apparent box office draw, and they are both drifting into the direction of b-movies (Phillips) or riskier independents (Sutherland). Phillips wrote and directed Dangerous Touch a while back, but neither of those careers has developed for him.

Dermot Mulroney, 37, has shown significant flashes of talent here and there, but never broke through into starring roles in major films. Casey Siemasko - well, Casey is 40, the oldest of the six, and he's working, but you probably can't remember the last time you saw him.

Some of those guys were pretty hot back in 1988 when Young Guns was filmed. Sheen, I talked about. Estevez had his brat pack movies, Stakeout, and the cult favorite, Repo Man. Lou Diamond Phillips was soaring, since Young Guns came right on the heels of La Bamba. Kiefer had only juvenile roles, but was acknowledged Hollywood royalty and was branded as a sure-fire star.

The 12 years since have not been especially kind to the Young Guns

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • some short featurettes

The film itself was hailed as a revival of the Western genre. It seems to have the right look, but there really isn't much meat to it. Terence Stamp is an English rancher who's being muscled out of his land by competing interests, and the law won't help him, so he cultivates his own stable of young protégés, teaches them to be gentlemen, teaches them to read, and they become his protection. One of the group is Billy the Kid. When Stamp is ambushed, Billy and his buddies go on a rampage of revenge. At first, they are deputized lawmen, but Billy's cavalier and unnecessary violence cause their badges to be revoked. Eventually, they end up in a shoot-out with the U.S. Army, several hired killers, and a big-money local power broker who arranged to have Stamp killed. Although trapped in a house, surrounded by 50 or more gunmen, three of the boys manage to escape, and they manage to kill the rich dude on their way out.

The realism is inconsistent. Visually, it seems to be authentic, but the dialogue is another question. Although the film did evoke the buildings and sets of that period, the characters mix in modern slang and attitudes.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 2.5/4. 

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it a respectable 6.3.
  • With their dollars took in $44 million domestic and $20 more in rentals
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. It is a mediocre Western, not an awful movie, but of no special merit. Don't run out to get it, but you don't have to change the channel if it comes on at 3 A.M. and you can't sleep.

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