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USA 1985
Directed by
Lawrence Kasdan
133 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Lawrence Kasdan’s film starts off with promise suggesting a willingness to play with the Western genre and its well-worn conventions in a wittier, classier version of Mel Brooks 1974 hit spoof Blazing Saddles. As it unfolds, however, it loses its edge and gradually morphs into just the kind of old school Western it started out making fun of. 

Taking one of the most worked scenarios of the genre, the range wars between ruthless cattle barons and small time homesteaders and scaling down John Sturges’s The Magnificent Seven (1960) Silverado tells the story of four itinerant cowboys (Kevin Kline, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover and Scott Glenn) who join forces to defeat a corrupt sheriff (Brian Dennehy) and his tyrannical boss.

Kasdan who co-wrote the film with his brother Mark was the scriptwriter of Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) so he knows the homage-cum-parody territory well. The problem with Silverado is that he can’t stay on the beat. With casting like John Cleese as the (English) sheriff of a nearby town and Jeff Goldblum as a slick gamblin’ man (he’s even called Slick) it’s as if in making the film everything was so evidently self-parodic to him that he lost interest in crafting his material into something which engaged us beyond this simple fact.

With an over-exposure of bad guys who couldn’t hit the side of a barn and good guys who are all crack marksmen, an overlong run-time, Glenn’s limited acting skills, Costner borderline annoying and Glover having no apparent raison d’être other than as a sop to black audiences, there’s not enough sparks here to induce more than an occasional smile and, eventually, disappointment. Fortunately Kline has a gift for irony and although Dennehy’s permanently-amused henchman is a somewhat odd characterization, he is at least a point of difference. Ditto for Hunt however Rosanna Arquette appears in only one scene of note in what appears to be an under-developed sub-plot. 

Finally, on the upside the film looks very good thanks to the cinematography of John Bailey suggesting that it might have been more effective as a traditional Western.




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