YOUNG GUNS - Blu-ray review

Young Guns is a fun-filled western that doesn't strive to be historically accurate, but works hard at being entertaining.


"Young Guns" is director Christoper Cain's take on the true life events that occurred at one point in the life of Wild West outlaw Billy "The Kid." The film portrays events that occurred while Billy "The Kid" was under the employ of John Tunstall and part of a bitter turf war between the allies of Tunstall and those loyal to Lawrence G. Murphy. "Young Guns" is not notable because of the historical accuracy or inaccuracy of the film, but for its who's who list of young actors. Brothers Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen join Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Philips, Dermot Mulroney and the unfamiliar to most Casey Siemaszko. Estevez and Sheen have had good careers since "Young Guns," and sheen's television show "Two and a Half Men" has been quite successful. The "Mighty Ducks" franchise was the last high profile project Estevez was involved with, but he continues to find steady work. Kiefer Sutherland is the star of the uber-successful television show "24." Lou Diamond Phillips had his greatest role two years before "Young Guns" with "La Bamba," but continues to find work as well.

The young stars of the film are not the only familiar faces. Veteran Terence Stamp portrayed John Tunstall in the film. Stamp's biggest claim to fame is his involvement with the "Superman" franchise as General Zod in the second film and the voice of Jor-El in the "Smallville" television series. Jack Palance needs no introduction and portrays rival cattle herder Lawrence G. Murphy. Followers of the television show "Lost" will recognize Terry O'Quinn, who brings life to the character John Locke. Jack's son Cody has a role in the film. Another famous son, Patrick Wayne portrays the man who would eventually kill Billy "The Kid," Pat Garrett. Two uncredited cameos are that of Tom Cruise and country legend Randy Travis.

The story of "Young Guns" finds the law chasing after William H. "Billy the Kid" Bonney (Emilio Estevez) and he is rescued from capture by meat man John Tunstall (Terence Stamp) and one of his hired henchmen, Josiah Gordon "Doc" Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland). Billy is taken back to their camp and he meets up with the other "Regulators," Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Dick Brewer (Charlie Sheen), Dirty Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney) and Charlie Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko). Billy has trouble fitting in, but finds protection and reassurance from the fatherly Brit Tunstall. However, Tunstall and rival cattle man Lawrence G. Murphy (Jack Palance) are in a bitter struggle to control the meat market of the local area. Tunstall is partnered with lawyer Alex McSween (Terry O'Quinn) and Murphy has local Sheriff McCloskey (Geoffrey Blake) as his partner.

"Young Guns' is a fun-filled western that doesn't strive to be historically accurate, but works hard at being entertaining. The film's cast is a very notable group and they all bring their individual characters to life and deliver the conflict and animosity that was supposedly part of the Regulators during their bloody war with Lawrence Murphy's men. Terence Stamp and Jack Palance are brilliant as the rival cattle men and a disappointment in "Young Guns" is that Stamp's character does not last too long into the film. The gunplay is certainly over the top and the dialogue is not overly thought provoking. You certainly get the impression that the cast had a helluva good time working together and making a fun-filled picture. When you look at more serious Westerns such as "Unforgiven" or "The Searchers," it is hard to consider "Young Guns" as a classic. It is the MTV Generation's envisioning of a Western. It is loud and filled with hotshot gunslingers. Story is lightened to allow for a heavier burden of bullets.

I've always enjoyed sitting back and watching "Young Guns." "Young Guns" is to the Wild West what "A Knight's Tale" was the Medieval England. It is a fun-filled movie that combines humor and action with a cast that speaks to the generation it was created during. The film doesn't stand up as a great classic western, but is fondly remembered by those of us that grew up watching the actors who portray the "Regulators." The film may still find a new audience here and there, but most of those that want to sit down and watch the film now are people like me; the generation that grew up watching "The Lost Boys," "Red Dawn" and "La Bamba."

"Young Guns" is presented in MPEG-2 mastered 1.85:1 widescreen. The film has had its fair share of releases onto the DVD format, but this first entry in the realm of high definition finds a luke-warm reception. Video quality for "Young Guns" is neither disappointing nor overly impressive. The opening sequence where Tunstall and Doc first find Billy the Kid was gritty and poorly detailed. First impressions are important and this Blu-ray release didn't leave a very good one. However, it didn't take long before a few magnificently detailed vistas of the Old West were spotted and the level of detail jumped markedly. It was these great exterior scenes with a bright sunny sky that leaped to life. However, interior scenes or those that were not as brightly lit had a flat quality to its imagery. Color reproduction was decent, but suffered from some over-saturation. Film grain was confined to the darker interior sequences and aside from these few instances, the source materials were quite clean.

Lionsgate has presented "Young Guns" with both a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX mix and a more impressive DTS HD 6.1 multi-channel surround mix. English and Spanish subtitles are provided. Both the 5.1 Dolby Digital and 6.1 DTS HD soundtracks were quite lively and featured heavy usage of the .1 LFE subwoofer channel and decent usage of the rear surrounds. Imagery across all channels was quite good and a few of the gunfighting sequences certainly benefited from the nice surround effects and solid movement from side to side in the front channels. Dialogue was clean and intelligible, but at times felt overly processed; which could have been a result of the remaster for the newer sound formats. This isn't uncommon for some older films and was within acceptable limits. The DTS track has a slight bit more liveliness to it than the Dolby Digital track, but they are fairly close in sound. While the picture quality was nothing to write home about, the sound quality was very good.

"Young Guns" is one of the more popular catalog titles from Lionsgate and has seen more than its fair share of releases. The Blu-ray release pulls a couple supplements from the older DVD releases and brings them to the new format. Before moving onto the supplemental material, I want to mention the main menu for "Young Guns." It is annoying to no end; perhaps the most annoying main menu yet. The menu features a looped animation of a six-shooter firing its six rounds. The looping repeats every thirty seconds and the sound of the gunfire is much louder than the sound and you will easily find yourself not wanting to stay on the menu for very long. Menus should be somewhat subtle, not in-your-face gunshots.

The first supplement is the Out of the Blu Trivia track. This features pop up graphical overlays that details some trivial information about the film, its stars and the historical figures represented in the film. This has been done with other Lionsgate releases such as "First Blood" and isn't a bad ‘extra' to turn on while watching the film; although it doesn't supply anything groundbreaking in terms of information. A commentary track would have been preferable, but is sorely missing. The documentary The Real Billy the Kid (30:57) is the only other feature included on the Blu-ray title aside from some promotional trailers. This has a look and feel of something you would see on either PBS or the History Channel. It is short, but informative and includes information that directly relates to events covered in the film. It features a lot of old photographs from the actual era of Billy the Kid and interviews with historians on the American West and the time period where Billy the Kid supposedly murdered twenty one people.

Closing Thoughts:
It was only a matter of time before Lionsgate delivered "Young Guns" onto the Blu-ray format. This has been one of their more bankable catalog titles and it has served them well. With its familiar young cast of then A-List stars, "Young Guns" is a fun western that loosely follows true life events in the story of the legendary outlaw Billy "The Kid" Bonney. This is more of an action film and a platform to provide face time for its cast than it is a bona-fide western. This isn't going to unseat the great westerns from their thrones, but "Young Guns" never fails in delivering entertainment. The Blu-ray release features visuals that range from spotty to highly detailed and a very nice sounding pair of soundtracks. The features are quite thin and somewhat disappointing. The documentary on Billy "The Kid" was worth watching, but the trivia tracks were nothing more than something to turn on while watching the film for the umpteenth time. Sooner or later, a nice Special Edition of the film will arrive on Blu-ray and I'll look forward to that release as well.


Film Value