Young Guns (1988)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Outlaw (Gunfighter) Film  |   Release Date - Aug 12, 1988 (USA)  |   Run Time - 107 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Young Guns was surprisingly successful at taking a rusty genre, the Western, and making it accessible and interesting to the Brat Pack generation. The result is a popcorn film popular enough to have spawned a sequel two years later, yet not good enough to land on many lists of favorite Westerns. Still, it's not as conventional as one might expect. For starters, Emilio Estevez's Billy the Kid is far more gleefully sadistic than most other Western antiheroes get to be, especially those designed for the consumption of teenagers. The film also features a narratively unimportant yet strangely fascinating sequence in which the characters trip on peyote, complete with vomit, dangerously aimless shotgun blasts, and an underwater-sounding audio track that seems like an experimental coup on the part of director Christopher Cain. Add in the premature death of one of the film's biggest stars, and Young Guns is not as easy to telegraph as it should be. Still, it's not as exciting as it should be, either -- the climactic set piece is the only sustained gun battle, and it gets resolved extremely improbably. While the backstories of the key characters are meant to give them soul, they are clumsily handled, particularly Kiefer Sutherland's tacked-on affair with a Chinese girl enslaved by his enemy. Young Guns has a certain comforting familiarity to its target audience, but not much of a following beyond that.