I know. I know.
Not one Western and then I decide to do two in a row.
This is one of my most favorite underrated films of all time.
I say underrated because it did not do well at the box office (historic flop). It also never really got a chance to be too successful at VHS as that was a rather new media still in 1985–plus they had to deal with the likes of “Out of Africa,” “The Color Purple,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Prizzi’s Honor,” “Witness,” “Runaway Train,” “Cocoon,” “Jagged Edge,” “Ran,” “Back to the Future,” “Ladyhawke,” and oh yeah, “White Nights.”
I think this was the first Western I saw that didn’t have John Wayne in it.
I’m going to list the cast right now and you see if you can guess the film–those of you that can, already know the film I’m talking about, most likely:
Kevin Costner (young)
and a very brief Jeff Goldblum
“Silverado” was a movie that knew what was popular about Westerns (guns, horses, chases through the open range, cattle stampedes, lovable loser cowboys, big rifles, fires, churches, and nasty, nasty villains).
Right out of the gate before the “fade in” from black we hear a gunshot. Our hero Emmett (played by the silent and deadly Scott Glenn) leaps into action half asleep and defends his ground against two villains that attempt to kill him in an ambush as he sleeps. If you weren’t paying attention through the credit role, you are now.
The film starts out as a Western “road picture” as we watch Emmett travel through the frontier meeting many different people along the way. He runs into one of my favorite cowboys, Paden–played brilliantly by the underrated Kevin Kline laying near death in the desert in nothing but his red long underwear.
We get to meet Emmett through Paden and Paden through Emmett over their conversations and join them as they travel from town to town.
The two of them end up rescuing Emmett’s rowdy younger brother Jake (young Costner) from a very snooty little town, and make friends with a fourth man along the way in Mal–Danny Glover. With their new formed posse they help rescue a wagon train (heading to Silverado) from marauders, and decide to finish the trip with them. Jake and Emmett have family there, along with Mal who has a kid sister that lives and works there.
Lawrence Kasdan has done an amazing job keeping us engaged on the trek to Silverado, and then the storytelling starts and we are drawn into the past relationships and how they will effect the future of the town.
Brian Dennehy enters onto screen as the notorious Cobb that Paden has been talking about here and there for most of the journey. Dennehy owns this part better than any other he has portrayed on film. I mean that as a compliment as he is an amazing, sometimes forgotten actor. He is the perfect kind of villain. He seems charming at first and wants to help. He laughs and has a good time, and then in seconds he shows his ruthlessness and we are at the edge of our seat every time he steps into frame.
Kasdan is a master at telling many stories in one film that conclude at the climax. He has to be one of the greatest writers that Hollywood has put out. “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Body Heat,” “Return of the Jedi,” “The Big Chill,” “Silverado,” “The Accidental Tourist,” and “Grand Canyon,” to name a few–all of which I love. I’d say if you haven’t seen “Silverado” and “Body Heat,” they should be the next two movies you seek out.
At the end of the day, this movie is a testosterone filled adventure that all boys love. There are plenty of shootouts, but there is also plenty of very well written dialogue. The scenes between Linda Hunt and Kline are some of my favorite in the film and I get excited to watch those two across from each other every time I see it.
In the end, we have a true western, with very real actors carrying a great formula that keeps us in our seats and delivers what we want.