The Brat Pack become The Wild Bunch
Under the guidance of landowner John Turnstall (Terence Stamp) a bunch of young men including 'Doc' Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), 'Dick' Brewer (Charlie Sheen) and William H. Bonney (Emilio Estevez) help run his business and look after his land as 'regulators'. But that all changes the night that men working for rival businessman Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance) kill Turnstall and whlst the young men get sworn in as deputies Bonney believes the justice that Trunstall's kilers deserve is that served by a gun. Before long these young men become young guns, outlaws with not just the law after them but also Murphy and his men.
Released back in 1988, "Young Guns" may techincally be a western but it is more of a vehicle to capitalize on the then appeal of the Hollywood brat pack. Yes it may be set in the west and feature cowboys, but unlike classic westerns, this is more about action and escapism than being factually correct or really gritty in the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood sense. Just take a look at the lead players of brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, they can be in a really dusty location and in the middle of a shoot out, but look like they have just come out of make up, with not a hair out of place. Don't get me wrong, as I really like "Young Guns" as it appeals to my child like fantasies of being the gun slinging cowboy who beats the baddies, but compared to a true western, "Young Guns" is right down on my list.
The storyline to "Young Guns" takes the old tale of William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, the legendary outlaw who was supposedly one of the best guns men of his time, as its basis. But that is really is far as the facts of "Young Guns" go and it departs into its own world of entertaining gun fights and semi comical scenes. Putting this to the back of your mind, and taking the story as escapism featuring a gang of men looking to take vengeance for the murder of their boss it is entertaining and helps to make it appeal to those who don't really care for the cast featuring brat pack members. Although this storyline has been done to death, it still has enough about it to make it entertaining, and although you can guess where it will end up, it doesn't really matter as the escapism of being in the old west carries you until the end of "Young Guns".
The real appeal of "Young Guns" lays in its stars, most notably in the brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Estevez plays the young William H. Bonney, and although he is far too good looking to be a convincing outlaw, his performance as the wild and hot headed Bonney is enjoyable and fills the screen as he blasts his way through many a scene. On the other end of the scale is Charlie Sheen as the level headed 'Dick' Brewer, who realises the consequences of their actions and tries to maintain some sort of modicum amongst the band of regulators. Again Sheen is far too good looking to be a trail riding cowboy, but his performance is solid and works brilliantly against the opposing character of his brother, although in hindsight maybe they would have been better cast in opposing characters.
Making up the ensemble you have Kiefer Sutherland as "Doc" Scurlock, who is the thinker and the poet of the bunch. Although this is not Sutherland's crowning performance he holds his own as he matches Estevez and Sheen's performances. Also making prominent appearances in "Young Guns" are Terence Stamp, Jack Palance, Lou Diamond Phillips and Dermot Mulroney all of which put in decent performances. Although all the performances are entertaining, they are just a bit unrealistic as gun totting outlaws, but this may be due to the producers wanting to make the stars good looks as appealing as possible rather than realistic.
What this all boils down to is that "Young Guns" is undeniably entertaining and an enjoyable showcase for some of the young stars of the 80s. But it is one of those westerns where the stars are the stars and so in the dust and dirt of the west they rarely look anything but handsome which makes "Young Guns" weak for those who like their westerns to feature realism.