- Directed by Geoff Murphy
- August 1, 1990
The dramatized life of Billy the Kid following the Lincoln County War up to his documented death as told by Brushy Bill Roberts.
As always with Hollywood productions though based on real events this film is riddled with historical inaccuracies. And I’m not talking even talking about the bit with Brushy Bill Roberts. There are errors with ages of characters or them actually dying. Then again this is a Hollywood production. If you go in expecting an accurate history lesson you might fail the upcoming quiz.
One thing that bothers me is in Young Guns, Patrick “son of John Wayne” Wayne played Pat Garrett. It was not a huge part in that film, but it was an important enough part. In this one Pat Garrett is played by William Petersen. And the two versions of the character do not seem to connect too much. They’re supposed to be the same individual but in their portrayal they appear to be two different individuals.
I am not against recasting. It happens all the time and can be necessary but as I said the two seem like separate individuals. James Bond recast several times and you can see a connection from Connery to Brosnan. I cannot see a connection from Wayne to Petersen.
Petersen is fine as Garrett. His Garrett starts out as just wanting a calm life but the chance to get Billy sparks something in him and makes him into an opportunist. He becomes enamored with creating his own myth to the point of bringing along a ghostwriter for a book as he searches for Billy.
Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez) is much more the focus of this film than he was in its predecessor. He’s also a little less crazy in this movie than he was the first time around. Still crazy but a little more intelligent than crazy as well as a bit drunk on his own legend. Estevez makes him charming and dangerous.
Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips return to their roles of Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock and Jose Chavez y Chavez and are joined by Christian Slater as “Arkansas” Dave Rudabaugh. They are work well together and their rapport makes you believe their characters actually know each other.
The characters are of strong men even if they are terrible men. Each performer makes these otherwise terrible people charming and likable to an extent. They are framed almost as non-conformists rebelling against a system that is trying to make them conform and are from a world that is fading away.
Young Guns II is built around the claim by a gentleman known as Brushy Bill Roberts that he was actually Billy the Kid, and he was owed a pardon from Gov. Lew Wallace (Scott Wilson). Of interesting historical note as far as I can find (and I did a little digging out of curiosity) Brushy Bill’s claim of being Billy the Kid has yet to be disproven and while one photo examination said he wasn’t another said he was so that little bit is still out there.
I bring this up because by the end of Young Guns II you’re really hoping that Brushy Bill gets his pardon and that he is somehow confirmed he is Billy the Kid. You want him to be who the film claims he is. Given the number of liberties they took with the facts I am surprised that they did not end it by saying he did indeed verify his claim.
Estevez plays the Roberts part as well under some of the best old age makeup I have ever seen. The only thing that gives it away is Estevez’s voice. Voice aside, you can be fooled into thinking they hired some elderly no name actor to play the part.
Young Guns II does a fine job of straddling the fun of older Westerns and the serious nature of more modern Westerns. It is like these characters are having a party as they kill and take from others along the way but there is a fatalistic feel at times. It is as if they know things can only end one way for them and there is no real exit from it.
The music is great. At times it has an appropriately myth making Western feel to it. These after all are larger than life characters featured in this film that while real have moved into the mythology of this nation. The music is appropriate for that but sometimes it’s too much for some scenes. Those scenes needed something special but nothing larger than life.
Young Guns II is a great follow up to the original. It has great characters and a great story. This is definitely something you will go back and watch again. This is a must see!