In 1880, four men travel together to the city of Silverado. They come across many dangers before they finally engage the "bad guys" and bring peace and equality back to the city. Written by
Chris Makrozahopoulos <email@example.com>
A good movie scene can become a cliché, but a cliché can't become a good movie scene. Not unless it's "Airplane," and this isn't, it's "Silverado," director Lawrence Kasdan's heartfelt but cluttered Valentine to the Western.
Heading west, reformed outlaws Emmett (Scott Glenn) and Paden (Kevin Kline) become a band, first by springing Emmett's wild brother Jake (Kevin Costner), then by getting saved from a posse by Mal (Danny Glover), crack shot with a Henry rifle. Then it's off to the beckoning town of Silverado, where Paden finds the bar of his dreams while the others are reunited with family. All is great - until trouble rides in.
"There's nothing' wrong with the land," says Emmett's sister Kate (Patricia Gaul), "it's just some of the people." That goes for Silverado the movie, too. Kasdan was coming off a bumper crop of hits as screenwriter and director, and thus had the ability to do whatever he wanted and work with whoever he wanted in 1985. He had some trouble cutting down on the scope of his ambition. "Silverado" is a big sprawling epic of a western with one of the most eclectic casts ever brought together. Kasdan and his co-writer, brother Mark, didn't know what to do with what they had, and it shows.
Rosanna Arquette is the most obvious casualty, playing a homesteader who floats around the edges of the story. Kasdan admits much of the point of her character was lost on the cutting-room floor. But even parts that made the final cut seem uneven and sketchy. Linda Hunt won an Oscar just before this was made, but she doesn't seem to have any purpose in the story except to trade rueful japes with Kline playing a bar matron with a good heart. Jeff Goldblum drifts in as a gambler, like Kline and Gaul a member of the cast of Kasdan's last hit "The Big Chill." When he played a cowboy in "Buckaroo Banzai," it was supposed to be a joke, but here it's for real, only it isn't as Goldblum never finds a character who serves no point anyway. Glover just glowers lifelessly about "what ain't right." Even Kline, a favorite of mine, feels shallow and flat here. Wearing a beard and duster don't make you a cowboy.
The bad guys come off even worse. Brian Dennehy is their leader, Cobb, who smiles wryly in that Dennehy way and never kicks it into the next gear. He's still got that wry smile on when he faces down old friend Paden at the end. His gang lacks any sense of motivation or personality. "Why are they doing this?" someone asks, only to be answered: "Because they enjoy it." That's not enough to go on here.
The editing is atrocious. Action scenes lack spatial reality. Less than a minute after some bad guys appear out of nowhere to ambush Emmett, Mal pops out of nowhere to ambush them. A few seconds after we see Jake riding out after some villains, he's in a bar getting into a fight over a girl. Kasdan shot too much footage, and without any organic flow to begin with, the result is a hazy mess.
So what did I like? Costner surprisingly plays a goofball to good effect, and Glenn does nice work in the lead Cooper-Wayne role. The opening scenes, of him and Paden finding each other and springing Jake, have a nice flow to them. John Cleese is another example of stunt casting here, only it pays off as Cleese finds a nice blend of humor and menace playing a lawman who's not a bad guy, just narrow and selfish.
But then "Silverado" descends into cliché, bouncing from rustlers' hideout to stampede to showdown in mechanical fashion. It never bores you completely; its desire to entertain is palpable throughout, but it never rises above predictability.
"What a waste," Dennehy says at the end. I couldn't agree more.
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