1878 in New Mexico: John Tunstall picks up young gun men from the road to have them work on his ranch, but also to teach them reading and to civilize them. However he's a thorn in the side of the rich rancher Murphy, as he's a competitor in selling cattle. One day he's shot by Murphy's men. Judge Wilson can't do anything, since Sheriff Brady is one of Murphy's men. But attorney Alex persuades him to constitute Tunstall's young friends to Deputies and give them warrants of arrest for the murderers. Instead of arresting them, William Bonney just shoots them down. Soon the 5 guys become famous and William gets the name "Billie the Kid" - but they're also chased by dozens of Murphy's men and the army. The people however honor him as fighter for justice.Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
This retelling of the Billy the Kid saga here and in the succeeding film, Young Guns II, is yet another fictionalized account of the doings in Lincoln County, New Mexico 1878-1879. One fine day we may get an accurate picture of the events.
Here though several young actors some of whom were labeled the Brat Pack and who were coming up roughly around the same time in the Middle Eighties got an opportunity to play some real life western characters. The names of the characters these guys play are real even though the story is highly fictionalized to the extent that not all of them died during the period both films show.
One reason I do like Young Guns is that it does show what is probably the most realistic portrayal of Billy the Kid. Forget Robert Taylor, Johnny Mack Brown, Paul Newman, when you see Emilio Estevez on the screen you are seeing the real Billy, basically a punk who was skilled enough to back up his brag.
Estevez rides with Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, and brother Charlie Sheen. They are the 'regulators' who ride for John Tunstall the British rancher played here by Terrence Stamp.
It was the relationship between Tunstall and his young regulators that villain L.G. Murphy (Jack Palance) touches on. It's certainly led to speculation that these guys were some kind of a gay harem for Stamp. I certainly am not going to comment one way or the other because we just don't know. What's more cause for the animosity is that old country resentment of the English rulers.
What Young Guns essentially does is take the plot of the John Wayne classic Chisum and tell it from the Tunstall/Regulators point of view. Chisum himself is eliminated from the story, though he appears in Young Guns, II played briefly by James Coburn. So if you've seen that, you know what happens.
The young guys are great and Stamp and Palance provide a good pair of antagonists. Brian Keith is around for a memorable performance as Buckshot Roberts, a well known bounty hunter of the period.
Young Guns is a well done western with good editing at a pace that never drags. It's a modern classic not to be missed.
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