Plot: What’s it about?
When it comes to the Western genre, there seems to be a finite amount of movies that pay homage to the “Old West”. Granted, some of our better movies that we remember are Western. Movies like High Noon, Stagecoach and The Searchers do come to mind; but the story of Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp seem to have dibs when it comes to making a modern-day Western. Is this bad? Of course not. Young Guns is actually one of the more entertaining Westerns to come out of Hollywood in the last few decade (granted, not that many have come out at all in the last 40 years or so). Featuring an ensemble cast (and an uncredited Tom Cruise doing a cameo) and a rather new look at the life of Billy the Kid; the movie was a hit with audiences when it opened in the late 80’s. But the movie does focus on a story other than that of shootouts and bank robberies. The story focuses on a group of men known as The Renegades, trained and educated by their mentor (played by Terrance Stamp). So what is it that’s so appealing about this particular movie, read on and find out…
The Renegades are composed of five members (until Billy shows up): Josiah “Doc” Scurlock (Keifer Sutherland), Jose Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Richard “Dick” Brewer (Charlie Sheen), Dirty Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney) and Charley Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko). Not your usual band of outlaws as they are more students of John Tunstall (Terrance Stamp) who takes these troubled men into his house and educated them and tries to teach them some sort of manners. However, Tunstall is also quite a pain to a local neighbor of his, Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance playing the best bad guy in a role since his own in Shane). Like so many other movies, Tunstall has been asked, warned and now threatened to surrender his farm or face the consequences. This being the Old West, he is then shot and killed by Murphy’s men. The gang, now with Billy (Emilio Estevez), is free to seek revenge on their mentor’s killers as they are now deputized and free to bring them into justice. However, things get out of hand when wild boy Billy just starts shooting everything in sight.
The gang turn from law men into fugitives and this tries to follow the saga of Billy the Kid and his group of rebels. Granted, that most of the stories of Billy the Kid are just legend, but he was, in fact, a real man. Young Guns not only tells the tale of history (though embellished a bit), but it does so in an interesting way. Gone are the somewhat lavish costumes of the 50’s Westerns and the scenic shots of the John Ford Westerns that made the genre so beloved. Instead, this is more of a modern-day action/adventure movie; but it takes place in the Old West. The movie spawned a sequel, the aptly-titled Young Guns II, but it couldn’t compare to the original. Director Christopher Cain, not really known for much after this, was in fine form here as he directed some of the hottest young talent to even more stardom. For those who like Westerns or just a well-written and acted movie, this might just be what you’re looking for. However the DVD will more than likely sell itself as fans have been drooling over a new Special Edition of this movie. Well, the wait is over and the Young Guns are here…again!
Video: How does it look?
Young Guns was one of the first DVD’s out…ever. Artisan released it as a bare bones edition some five years ago and the transfer, not anamorphic, left a lot to be desired. I’m happy to report that most of the errors of the previous release are now a thing of the past (no pun intended). The new 1.85:1 “digitally re-mastered” edition looks much better than its predecessor. From the grainy opening credits to the closing, there is much more definition than that of the older version. The colors are a bit brighter and the edge enhancement that plagued the former release is now nearly gone as well. Granted, the movie is now 15 years old and there are still some errors present, but for the most part it’s a vast improvement over what is already available. The new transfer is assuredly a step up and worth the price of the disc alone.
Audio: How does it sound?
In addition to the new transfer, Young Guns also has a brand new DTS re-master in the sound department as well. Though there are other DTS tracks out there that sound a bit better, this one did surprise me from time to time. The surrounds are very active and though I feel that Tombstone’s DTS track was a bit better, this is nothing to play down. The dialogue is crystal clear and, as one can imagine, there are plenty of surround effects (in the form of bullets) that will keep your speakers quite occupied. Also included is a Dolby Surround track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Though the words “Special Edition” are nearly everywhere on this release (physically), there really isn’t that much supplemental material. That’s OK, though, as the new transfer and DTS track more than make up for what the previous edition was lacking. First up is an audio commentary track with stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko (aka “the three who aren’t as successful as the other three actors”). The track is a bit subdued, with some spaces in between scenes. The director would have been a good choice to add into this track, but the guys seem to have some rather fond memories of the movie and it’s a great listen for those die hard fans of the movie. The real gem is a documentary on Billy the Kid (the real one). Presented in anamorphic widescreen, his roots are traced from his childhood to how he became an outlaw. Historians are still unsure of his birth place, but this is loaded with some very interesting information about William H. Bonney. An interesting feature is entitled the “Trivia Track” in which somewhat of a “Pop Up Video” is used while you watch the movie. Some rather interesting things are shown, but most of us want to watch the movie and not learn anything; so this might be (again) for die hard fans only. A trailer is shown as is a gallery of other Artisan titles. Overall, a great Special Edition and one that’s long overdue. Proof that Artisan has more in its arsenal than Reservoir Dogs, Total Recall and Terminator 2!