Young Guns II
Reviewed by Mike Brannon
Rating: 6 Beans
oung Guns II is, like the first, an old West Tale given the 90's treatment. As popcorn entertainment, it isn't bad if you check your brain at the door... but there are enough stretches and anacronisms to make an Old West Historian's colon clench.
It isn't a horrible movie, but it badly taxes both credibility and viewer patience. This is bad, since it is a follow-up to a movie that cut its ties with an epilogue and did not set up for a sequel. How bad does it tax credibility? Let's put it this way... in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, it sets up with Billy the Kid ambushing a group of bounty hunters. After getting shot in the leg with a shotgun, not only does the Kid remain upright, but Billy is -dancing- on the leg seconds later.
The lead, of course, is Emilio Estevez, who, like in the first movie, plays Billy as a frivilous, off-the-wall psycho. Never mind the fact he looks nothing like William Bonney. Never mind the fact that he's about ten years too old for this role. Not only that, but he seems to have a silly cliche catch-phrase "e.g. I'll make you famous!" at every turn. He quickly becomes an anemic jester you wish would shut up, but you're stuck with him, as he is the star.
Let's examine the posse with The Kid...
Of course, like all action movies of this nature, all the survivors of Part One are going to return to get massacred. Kiefer Sutherland returns as Isaiah "Doc" Scurlock, one of the few interesting characters from the first film -- a scummy cowboy born again as a wannabe scholar -- but Kiefer's acting is pretty slow on the draw... it's like he's just going through the motions of playing a familiar role so he can pick up his paycheck at the end of the day.
Lou Diamond Phillips returns as Chavez Y Chavez, a Mexican-Navajoe half-breed who uses knives instead of guns as a weapon of choice. Once again, he is more a collection of indian cliches than an authentic character. Especially with his claptrap about the "Spirit Horse," which reminds me of the "Sacred Hoop" speech of the first movie -- it just smacks of a white writer trying to make a politically correct "noble savage" speech.
Then we have Christian Slater as 'Arkansas' Dave Rudabaugh. Old West Historians will wonder why we chose a pretty-boy actor to play a notoriously vicious border outlaw. Hey, why not cast N'Sync as the Daltons?! Or Leonardo DiCaprio as Bill Brocious? Jeez. Not only that, but Dave Rudabaugh was never affiliated with The Kid, he was an independant outlaw. Worse, he's an annoying, cliche-spouting jerk who hates indians and feuds with Chavez constantly (a patent ressurrection of Delmont Mulroney's character "Dirty Steve" Stephens, who was killed off in the first movie).
Ethan Hawke is along for the ride as a beggar-turned-hanger-on, who joins Billy after being infatuated with the dime-novel gunslinger persona. At 16, he further makes Emilio, old enough to be his father, look far, far too old to be playing Billy The Kid. As he is developed as an allegory of naivity and innocence, it makes you really wonder why he wants to hang out with these bandit lowlives. Becoming an altar boy seems like a more suitable calling for him.
Alan Ruck, of Ferris Bueller fame, plays William Henry French, a farmer who joins the group for reasons that are never explained. He shoots nobody, isn't shot, has short, laughable dialogue, and in the end, decides the life of an outlaw isn't for him. I still do not understand why the plot was
burdened with such a boring, inactive character. It really feels as if French was added to the screenplay on a Friday, really close to 5pm. Like Hawke, we wonder why such a non-violent person is hanging out with this crew.
The story -- and I use that term loosely -- is that Pat Garrett, an old affiliate of Bonney's, is hired to hunt him down and kill him. The band of outlaws are trying to make it to Mexico (again) and get lost (again), leading them to dozens of climatic shoot-outs. That's it. That fills the screen for an hour and a half. During that time, Billy is arrested, escapes, visits a brothel, we get a sumptious butt shot of the brothel mistress, Billy shakes down a Cattle Baron, flees Union Troops and holes up in Mexico. Trust me, none of it is as interesting as it sounds.
The possee of cannon-fodder extras riding with Garrett seem to be graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksman Course -- i.e., they always seem to miss wildly when they fire, even at point-blank range. Garret's sidekick even has a telescope-mounted sniper rifle, yet he never seems to shoot when the boys are beyond twenty feet away! Upon linking up with his doomed-extras crew, Garrett grumbles, "We continued, encumbered by idgits." Uh-huh.
Another obscure trivia fact most old west aficiandos know is Billy The Kid's alleged last words before Pat shot him in the dark... "Quin Est?" (trans: "Who's there?!"). Yes, it's in the movie, but only prefacing a long, philosophical argument. The movie leaves it open if Billy was actually killed (and historically, Garrett produced the corpse, so there really was no question), which makes it even more ludicrous.
The movie reminds me of a badly-written comic book take on the legend of Billy the Kid. Like the first movie, it tries to balance action and humor, leaving character development to the wayside. Most of the jokes just aren't funny -- like Garrett's father, who accompanies Garrett's posse as a
journalist, complains that he needs to get off his horse to "have a movement," (i.e., use the outhouse). Perhaps he should of had his "movement" on the script. That way, the writers would have to start over and better use the potential of this cast.
It's time to cart the Young Gun series to Boot Hill, partner.
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