The amount my life changed between the first Young Guns, released in 1988, and Young Guns II in 1990 makes the movies themselves feel years upon years apart. Seeing that there was only two years between them is rather shocking seeing how many things happened in the space of that time.
Rewatching it now Young Guns II, while packed with a stellar cast, suffers from some clunky editing, which in turn has an effect on the narrative. I have to wonder if there’s a longer cut out there that works a little smoother. But watching it this time, it felt overly long and uneven, and only ran an hour and forty-four minutes.
Alan Silvestri delivers an interesting score, some of it really works, and some of it is a little head-scratching, and despite the credit for songs, Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t offer much beyond the Blaze of Glory theme song that closes out the film.
But check out this cast! Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, and Lou Diamond Phillips return as Billy the Kid, Doc and Chavez respectively. Joining them on Billy’s outlaw ride are Alan Ruck, Christian Slater, and Balthazar Getty. William Petersen takes on the role of Pat Garrett, a name as infamous as Billy’s, Viggo Mortensen plays one of the lawmen hunting Billy, Leon Rippy, Scott Wilson, Tracey Walter, James Coburn, and Bradley Whitford.
When a governor promises Billy a pardon if he’ll testify about the events of the first film, Billy eventually agrees, only to be betrayed. He escapes, rescues Doc and Chavez, who were also captured, rejoins Arkansas Dave (Clater) and suggests they make a run for Mexico.
But it all ends up some kind of game to Billy until Garrett’s pursuit becomes earnest and deadly.
Estevez is still wonderfully manic as Billy, with almost everything ending in a giggle that borders on insanity. But through both films, Sutherland as Doc is my guy. Honestly, it’s just cause Kiefer has always seemed so cool to me, and he makes Doc cool by extension.
Garrett chases Billy and his gang across the West, leading from one deadly clash to another, but the bookends of the film suggest a different history for Billy the Kid and his final encounter with Pat Garrett.
There are some historical accuracies to the film, as well as a number of inaccuracies, but that’s Hollywood, and that’s entertainment.
As a pair of films, Young Guns and Young Guns II are interesting, have great casting, but both needed slightly better scripts, directions, and arguably, budgets. But for a brief moment, it brought the Western genre to the attention of younger filmgoers who were then able to discover classic upon classic western following the introduction.