Silverado (1985) / Western-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, some sexual themes and language
Running Time: 127 min.
Cast: Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, Kevn Costner, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, Jeff Fahey, Jeff Goldblum, Rosanna Arquette, John Cleese, Lynn Whitfield, Brion James
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, Mark Kasdan
Review published July 20, 2005
Silverado is a throwback Western that doesnít bother trying to reinvent the genre into a new form. It embraces all of the old clichťs and formulas of the olden days, rehashing them with popular stars for a new generation that didnít grow up on them, and for the old-timers to reminisce. At the time of its release back in 1985, it was considered a rip-roaring good time at the movies. However, as time has passed, the amount of time between its release and the waning of Westerns as a popular genre doesnít loom quite as large. Those that arenít avowed nostalgia buffs currently catching this for the first time will have a hard time discerning Silverado is a throwback, rather than a standard Western released during a time when most had become obsolete.
The plot is simple, so I wonít bog the review down with lots of details. Essentially, itís the late 19th Century, and through some twists of fate, four men keep finding each other along the way to the town of Silverado. Many perils exist, with greedy free grazing farmers, disreputable lawmen, and all the no-good desperadoes youíd never want to encounter along the way.
The creators of Silverado, Lawrence (Dreamcatcher, Body Heat) and Mark Kasdan (Criminal Law), accomplish everything they set out to do. They wanted to craft a fun and lively Western full of talented performers and wild characters, lots of shootouts, dastardly villainy, and a great dash of humor, and thatís what we have here. There really isnít anything the film does as a Western that you might not find in many a film by John Ford or Howard Hawks, but to fault Kasdan for this seems ridiculous. This is the ultimate homage film, made by people that like their tales of the Old West as familiar as possible.
As I mentioned previously, Silverado has lost some of its luster as an attempt to revitalize a dormant genre, and while it does have its share of fans, distinguishing this film from the ones that came out 20 or 30 years before proves to be increasingly difficult to do. When it was released, it was unique, but future projects in the Western genre would breathe life into an era of films many thought would never live again, with such notable Academy Award winning classics like Unforgiven and Dances with Wolves. More recently, solid outings like The Missing and Open Range would continue the trend of mature Westerns that make them a viable form for telling different and unique stories. Silverado doesnít quite belong to this new breed of complicated Western. It is fully a by-product of the days of old, and the only difference between this and the Westerns of John Wayne's days lies solely in the film savvy knowledge of the viewer.
I could give bonus points to the movie for getting nearly everything a revival Western could do right, but thatís discrediting many of the derivative Westerns that did the same thing at the time that those films were riding high. Silverado is a fun time for those that enjoy Westerns, as well as for fans of the cast, who are all especially appealing in their respective roles. However, if you arenít one that typically enjoys a good old-fashioned oater, you may not find this to be anything more than a quaintly entertaining film at best. For those that love the Western genre, you probably already have this in your collection, so why the hell do you need me to validate that which you already know? A fan favorite for many, but you have to like Westerns.
©2005 Vince Leo