I’ve had a huge thing for Kiefer Sutherland for as long as I can remember. I think he’s beautiful. Even when he’s torturing people on 24. So today’s TBT films made me feel a little weird. To think that the year I was born Kiefer Sutherland was riding around with Emilio Estevez (another 80s crush I should add) pretending to be a cowboy. It certainly does highlight the massive age difference. She says as if it’s the only thing getting in the way of our love. But it does highlight some things. Some things I’d probably prefer not to think about. Still, I’m never one to miss the chance to watch 80s Kiefer so Young Guns was a decent choice. After all, Kiefer Sutherland is super hot so Kiefer Sutherland as gunslinger? Jesus Christ. I do love a cowboy. There’s a reason Back to the Future 3 is my second favourite in the trilogy and it’s certainly not because it’s better than the second. I just love anything set in the Wild West. Heck, I even kind of liked the film Wild Wild West even though it was utter shit. Of course, the song Wild Wild West certainly helps a lot with that one.
Everyone out there has had the cowboy fantasy, right? Seriously, wouldn’t everyone like the chance to get to be a cowboy if they could? I mean aside from the horrible conditions and the high likelihood of death, obviously. There’s something kind of romantic about roaming around on horseback wearing a hat, carrying a gun, and being a general badass. If I were an actor one of the movie genres that I would really want to have a chance of taking part in is a Western. So I can completely understand why so many of the brat pack signed up for this film and it’s probably a good job they did. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been successful enough for a sequel.
Because Young Guns is a Western but done in the most 80s way possible. Meaning it’s a bunch of actors who were famous in the 80s having a good time in the desert without much thought to the story. It doesn’t even feel very Western-y. From the crazy 80s editing, the soundtrack, and the over-reliance on action scenes, it would be easy to forget this was even supposed to be about the life of Billy the Kid. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained showed us that it was possible to update a Western for the modern-day. Something Young Guns failed to do in 1988.
There isn’t really much to get excited about. A group of young gunmen are taken in by a British cattle rancher (Terence Stamp) as he helps them turn their lives around. When their mentor is killed, the group of men set off on a revenge mission to punish those responsible. Lead by the wild and dangerous Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez), they are being pursued by their enemies and law enforcement. But that is all really inconsequential and you quickly start to understand that it wouldn’t matter who we were watching. All that matters is the there are plenty of shoot-outs and killings.
Normally, I wouldn’t necessarily mind a film that gave more prominence to action than narrative. I have a great love of shitty action movies. But, for that to work, the film needs to be good. Young Guns, as much as I always want it to be good, isn’t a great film. The characters are really underdeveloped and the script is often ridiculous. Aside from Billy the Kid himself, who is played as a hyped-up, bloodthirsty young buck, nobody is ever fully realised. Kiefer Sutherland is a timid and underused presence. Charlie Sheen is forgettable. And the rest of the cast barely register. Not even the villains seem very villainous. You needed to really feel the urgency of the quest that the gang undertake but, if anything, Billy seems like just as much of a dick as they are. The only person whose death means anything to you is the one that happens at the beginning.
Young Guns is a bad film but it doesn’t even have the decency to be a good bad film. It’s not the kind of thing you can watch as a guilty pleasure. It’s just bad. Which breaks my heart. Because I wanted to love this so much. I was so excited the first time I watched it. I love cowboys, I love Kiefer Sutherland, I love the 80s. This was supposed to be the perfect film ever. Even now I’m still bitter that it let me down.