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SILVERADO (director/writer: Lawrence Kasdan; screenwriter: Mark Kasdan; cinematographer: John Bailey; editor: Carol Littleton; music: Bruce Broughton; cast: Kevin Kline (Paden), Scott Glenn (Emmett), Kevin Costner (Jake), Danny Glover (Mal Johnson), Brian Dennehy (Sheriff Cobb), Linda Hunt (Stella), Jeff Goldblum (Slick), Ray Baker (Ethan McKendrick), Rosanna Arquette (Hannah, Pioneer Widow), John Cleese (Sheriff John T. Langston), Bill Thurman (Carter, bigot bar owner), Lynn Whitfield (Rae Johnson), Autry Ward (Hat Thief), Earl Hindman (J.T. Hollis), Patricia Gaul (Kate Hollis), Tom Brown (Augie Hollis), Amanda Wyss (Phoebe), Troy Ward (Nord Baxter), Roy McAdams (Tom Hawley), James Gammon (Dawson), Jeff Fahey (Deputy Tyree); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Lawrence Kasdan; Columbia Pictures; 1985)
“Filled with enough stock characters and B-film plotlines for a dozen mediocre Westerns.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Filled with enough stock characters and B-film plotlines for a dozen mediocre Westerns. This big budget film bombed at the box office. Big Chill director and Raiders of the Lost Ark writer Lawrence Kasdan (“Body Heat”/”Grand Canyon”/”Wyatt Earp”) tries to make up for all its deficiencies that include being overlong, clichéd and having a rambling story, by keeping it exuberant. It covers the following usual Western happenings: a saloon fist-fight, multiple shoot-outs, incident over a stolen horse, a stampede, a house burned down, a jail break, a corrupt sheriff working with a greedy cattle baron, the climactic gun duel between the villain and unlikely hero and the heroes parting ways at the end to ride off in the sunset. Though entertaining in spots, visually splendid, showing a love for the Western genre and with its action sequences well choreographed, it still lacks any dramatic edge to hold one’s interest for over two hours.

The plot has four disparate desperadoes join together in Silverado to save the town from its nasty Sheriff Cobb and saloon owner (Brian Dennehy) and ruthless cattle baron Ethan McKendrick (Ray Baker), who has the sheriff on his payroll to control the town. The good guys are drifters Paden (Kevin Kline) and Emmett (Scott Glenn), Emmett’s feisty wayward younger brother Jake (Kevin Costner) and the vengeful African-American farmer Mal Johnson (Danny Glover) hoping to reconnect with his estranged family. The film takes its sweet time showing the heroics of each of these Wild Bunch characters from the time they meet in Turley, the town near Silverado run by an English sheriff (John Cleese). Mal tears up the saloon when not served by the racist proprietor and is kicked out of town by the sheriff; Jake is set to hang for winning a fair gun duel; while Paden is jailed for killing the man who stole his cowboy hat and drew on him first. In the morning Emmett springs them from the Turley jail and they escape with the help of Mal’s rifle sharpshooting holding off the posse. On the way to Silverado, the four retrieve from an outlaw gang the strongbox of silver stolen from a settler’s wagon train, and then go their separate ways to Silverado. The brothers stay at the house of their married sister, Mal learns his father was killed by McKendrick’s goons who tried to steal his land and Paden takes a job as enforcer with his former outlaw pal Cobb. When Cobb and McKendrick go too far and burn down the house of the brother’s sister and kidnap her son, the four unlikely heroes join together to take on the army of thugs fighting for the two villains.

The film has what could be considered a series of pseudo climactic shoot-outs throughout until, thank heaven, the final forced one clears the town of the baddies. After the dust clears, the cuddly good guy Paden decides to tie the knot with the widowed idealistic pioneer woman Hannah (Rosanna Arquette) and remain in town as the new sheriff; while the noble Mal rides further west with his sister (Lynn Whitfield) and the adventurous brothers ride for California seeking further thrills.

Jeff Goldblum has a turn as the slimy, dandified, and backstabbing gambler; while Linda Hunt is the diminutive tough-minded wise saloon manager who is threatened by Dennehy and befriended by Kline. This was Costner’s breakthrough film, and his merry role propelled him into stardom.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”