Thursday, March 27, 2008


Silverado (1985)

What a Western is, is a picture frame, and you can put any kind of picture you want in there. With Westerns you have the landscape is important, and it's empty, and only you populate it. When you populate it, you can tell any kind story that Shakespeare told, you can tell in a Western.

Lawrence Kasdan interviewed March 21, 2003

"Now, I don't wanna kill you and you don't wanna be dead".

Silverado is like every Western you have ever seen and, inevitably, like no other. It feels like it is director Lawrence Kasdan's homage and reinvention to the Westerns of his past in the way that his screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark seemed to be his updated tribute to the Saturday morning serials of his youth. It has just about every cliché you can remember: the four heroes with their code of honor who come riding across the scrubland; the crooked sheriff; the rapacious cattle rancher; the vulnerable wagon train; the saloon; the whore with a heart of gold; the slick gambler (called Slick); the classic Western town; the final gun duel in the empty street; the gun slinger with his twirling Colt 45's; a rousing score by Bruce Broughton that sounds like every Western score you have ever heard and most of all, 'that' landscape and so on and so on. Copies they may be but ones that have a faithfulness that comes from an appreciation for the genre rather than a mockery.

Kasdan keeps the action going with a shoot-out every fifteen minutes even as it builds to the classic confrontation. The script fairly crackles with cowboy dialogue melded with witty one-liners. Even the anachronisms seem to work: an African-American gunslinger (Danny Glover) and a feminist pioneer (Rosanna Arquette). Yet the movie has a modern sensibility too - the heroes aren't quite the pure 'white hats' - Kevin Kline plays Paden, a drifter, who is happy to casually kill a man for stealing his hat even though he will risk jail to save a stray dog and throws his lot in with the villainous Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy) before he is forced to act on his better instincts. Kevin Costner is surprisingly bearable (given his later outings) as the happy-go-lucky sociopathic brother of Scott Glenn who comes to the rescue time and time again. Added to this you also get John Cleese as an ex-pat sheriff and Jeff Goldblum , the aforementioned Slick as well as Linda Hunt, who comes close to stealing the whole movie as Stella the owner of the Midnight Star Saloon.

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