Young Guns II (1990) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

There was enough material in the life of Billy the Kid to make two films, and this is the second one. The first dealt with his participation in the famous Lincoln County Range War, and the second is basically yet another retelling of his relationship with Pat Garrett, his one time sidekick who became a lawman and eventually hunted ol' Billy down. Or did he?

This follows the same general revisionist tone, which portrays Billy as a sweet nutty guy, loyal to his friends, who could have worked it all out if he had only gotten to a shrink. This is pretty much the official outlaw cliche of the 1980's and 1990's.

The cinematic "hook" is that Billy was not actually killed by Garrett, but was in fact Brushy Bill Roberts, a real-life old geezer who claimed to be the real Billy as late as 1950. Brushy Bill's version of the story was that his old pal Garrett helped him fake his death by killing a guy named Billy Barlow, and after that The Kid (who spoke fluent Spanish) high-tailed it into Viejo Mejico, where he spent much of the rest of his life hiding out and eating gassy foods.

( ... And some other very cool stuff, like riding with Buffalo Bill Cody and Pancho Villa! Brushy Bill himself would make for a good movie subject.)

If you're interested in the real Brushy Bill story, here's a link for a pretty detailed biography of Brushy. Right or wrong, the site builds the case that the Brushmeister was The Kid, and it seems pretty convincing to someone like me who is not a scholar on the subject and/or and has not read any other viewpoints. It would be interesting to see a debate on this issue.

Here is another site which presents various levels of proof, including some scientific comparisons of photographs of the two men and their handwriting. Again, I haven't heard from the other side of the argument, but it seems to be a reasonable case.

As for the movie itself, it's disappointing. It isn't a bad movie, but it uses all the usual western cliches except for the fact that Billy and his gang were not hardened criminals, but just kids playing with guns.

The biggest failing is that it had some good ideas for the character studies, as well as some appropriate actors to play the parts, but it just kind of got lost in its own maze and failed to deliver on the key points.

They picked up and dropped the ball on the conflicts between Billy's gang members - the Indian and the racist; the two guys who both thought they were the leader; the pseudo-poet and the illiterates.


Jenny Wright shows her butt in the scene where she shocks the townspeople with a Lady Godiva exit from the whorehouse

Emilio Estevez exposes his butt when he climbs out of a bed to look out a window

On the other hand, I watched it all the way through without the FF button, and I even watched a couple of scenes over again because they were clever, and because the performers created some interesting characters on their own, without much help from the script.

There were are few Butch Cassidy one-liners, and enough action to justify the film. Billy busted out of jail or busted his associates out several times, and that was all pretty much true to the facts.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. A generally well photographed movie, but the DVD is not very crisp, and the quality is about at video tape level.

  • Trailer, very brief documentary

DVD info from Amazon on the original Young Guns.

One minor set of complaints:

In these revisionist Westerns, does everyone outside the gang have to be a racist, greedy, swine? It's amazing that the West ever attained any civilization when all the judges, rich men, and sheriffs were corrupt and stupid. If you believe the new-wave movies, the outlaws were the most complex and sensitive citizens of the West.

Except for the Native Amercans. The Indians are always seen as wise men living in harmony with nature. This is apparently to atone for the racism of the early Westerns, in which the Indians were all brutal savages who raped and tortured every chance they got.

And, of course, if the filmmakers introduce any black guys, you know they are going to be sensitive, intelligent, perceptive and gentle fellows, rather like Christopher Marlowe with a really good tan.

But those white authority figures in the Ol' West were some seriously orn'ry sidewinders.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Maltin 2.5/4

  • It was nominated for an Oscar, for the closing theme, "Blaze of Glory", by Jon Bon Jovi.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.6,
  • With their dollars ... it took in a sold $44 million domestic and has generated nearly $20 million in rentals. These numbers are almost identical to the number for the original Young Guns, which scores 6.3 at IMDb.
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. Nothing revolutionary, but a solid, well-photographed Western with some plusses and minuses. It could have reached out beyond the genre. The story had potential, and they did a great job of casting, but they didn't have enough plot and character development to really take advantage of it and raise the picture to its full promise.

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