Silverado (1985) – Lawrence Kasdan

Occasionally a film comes along and revitalises the genre. Eastwood would return to the western trough countless times before he revitalised it with his own take on it, Unforgiven, but in the mid-80s, that shake-up was left to Lawrence Kasdan and his brother Mark. Lawrence had his fingers in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Empire Strikes Back, and knew how to tell a story and work with a huge cast as illustrated with The Big Chill and Body Heat, so finally he was able to take on the western, and he crafted Silverado to perfection.

Four men are thrown together in a film that pays homage to western stereotypes and tropes. We are introduced to Emmett (Scott Glenn), his brother, Jake (Kevin Costner) Paden (Kevin Kline) and Mal (Danny Glover) who come together to confront a corrupt sheriff, and former partner of Paden’s Cobb (Brian Dennehy).

Supported by a rousing score by Bruce Broughton (which received an Oscar nomination), the cast includes Linda Hunt, Rosanna Arquette, Jeff Goldblum, Jeff Fahey, Amanda Wyss, Brion James, John Cleese, Pepe Serna, and James Gammon. The film takes riding with our heroes who are very familiar tropes as they travel to the town of Silverado, and find that it is not all they thought it would be, and they may be the town’s only hope for justice.

There are familiar incidents, and characters throughout the film, and Kasdan is just as aware of them as the viewer, and consequently plays with them delightfully, while giving us a rousing flick that still looks nothing short of epic western on screen. Location work, horse-riding, a well-scripted and edited film, all of it works.

And this one came along at just the right time for me. By the mid-80s my love of movies was kicking into high gear, and my teen years were filled with wandering the aisles of local video stores looking for something of interest. Silverado brought me into the western genre, and from there I discovered the classic Eastwood films, as well as one of my favourite films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Silverado launched my love of the genre and, consequently, will always have a special place in my heart. It was, and is, a big rousing film with wonderful dialogue, recognisable characters and names, gun play, and a sweeping score. All against the beautiful backdrop of New Mexico.

Silverado is just so much damned fun. It’s been way too long since I last viewed it, and settling in for this time around, I was delighted at how good the film has remained, and how it just works. Even if one isn’t a fan of westerns, the cast is enough to draw attention, and then it pays off as you get into the film itself.

I’m going to saddle up and ride with this one again.

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