Silverado (1985)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Revisionist Western  |   Run Time - 135 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Karl Williams

On the heels of his top-notch script for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), a film which single-handedly revived the long-dead cliffhanger, writer/director Lawrence Kasdan reimagines another vintage genre for modern audiences, this time the Western, with equally delightful and successful results. An absolutely first-rate piece for which some credit must be given to the filmmaker's brother, co-writer, and producer Mark Kasdan, a longtime aficionado of classic oaters, the film manages to be respectful to its cinematic roots while at the same time displaying a welcome, intelligent irony and some playful cheek. Casting is a virtual primer on how to fit the right actor to the correct role, but then, the brothers Kasdan give their stars some juicy parts with which to work. In particular, Kevin Kline shines as a troubled antihero equivocating over moral choices with a very modern detachment from his surroundings that intentionally comes across as sometimes Zen-like, sometimes weak-kneed. Kevin Costner is triumphant in his youthful breakthrough part, joyfully leaping into his role with a zest and energy sadly lacking in many of his later films. To top it all off, the film boasts a rich number of supporting players and an environment so lovingly realized, it could be a Robert Altman film if it weren't so lighthearted. Its frolicsome tone and sense of humor may make it difficult for some to take so seriously, but Silverado is a genuinely great Western. It ranks with McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Unforgiven (1992), and the television miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989) as among the best examples of its lamentably scant form in the latter 20th century.