Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
I guess I’ll stop waiting for Silverado to show up for free on Amazon Prime or Netflix, and go ahead and recommend it anyway.
Lawrence Kasdan’s 1985 Western is, simply put, one of the most entertaining films ever put together. And it is probably the most fun Western ever filmed.
The plot is pretty standard Western fare. An unlikely quartet of principled scoundrels come together to defend a town from a predatory cattle baron and the dirty sheriff who runs the place with his posse of bad guys. A bunch of people get shot, and the “good” guys get the girls, too.
So what makes Silverado unique? I’ll just summarize several things in bullet form.
- The New Mexico locations and set built for the movie are simply gorgeous, all captured by Kasdan’s stunning widescreen compositions.
- Bruce Broughton’s brass-filled score is the finest ever recorded for a Western.
- Silverado‘s opening sequence, in which a slumbering Scott Glenn is ambushed by revenge-fueled henchmen, is beyond memorable. Make sure you get your munchies and beverages, pillows and pets, all situated before you hit the “Play” button, because this movie gets going right away… and every bit of ambient audio—every crackle of wood in the stove, every creak of a boot or clank of a rifle stock—is carefully crafted into how the scene plays out.
- The casting is out this world. The lovable scoundrels are Scott Glenn and Kevin Kline, both in their prime, and both playing men recently released from prison; Danny Glover, fresh off his amazing supporting performance in Places in the Heart; and a very young Kevin Costner in the role that made him a star. The bad guys include an unbelievably scary portrayal of malice from Jeff Fahey as one of the corrupt deputies. Linda Hunt, Lynn Whitfield, and Amanda Wyss are given substantial roles in an genre that is typically dominated by men. Oh—and there’s a delightful cameo role for John Cleese as a particularly fussy lawman.
- Special shoutout to Brian Dennehy, who for a decade or more was a national treasure in supporting roles, and here shines as the sheriff with the tarnished star. The glee with which Cobb despatches those who stand in his master’s way is like a car wreck you can’t stop rubbernecking at. This is also literally a signature role for Dennehy; watch for the scene in which Cobb draws his initial in the sand with his boot. Seriously. What other actor would think of such a thing, and execute it with such subtle style?
But my absolute favorite part of the movie is not the wit of its dialogue—which is infinitely quotable—or the thrill of its tempo, or the beauty of its photography. It’s the delicacy, the quiet intensity, of the human relationships.
No better illustration can be found than the meeting between Kevin Kline’s gunfighter Paden and Linda Hunt’s saloon mistress, Stella.
The two exchange introductions, and the conversation continues.
There are stars, and then there are stars. This scene is the work of two brilliant performers. Later, in another simply brilliant scene, Cobb tells his audience a captivating story to illustrate his point that one can “never know what” Paden will care about—but Cobb already knows… and we do, too.
You probably know that I only write about films that I recommend; so take this recommendation seriously. Aside from a very clunky side-plot involving Rosanna Arquette (which seems like a choice of artistic obsession rather than an actual casting decision), every directorial choice in this film is simply brilliant. As long as you can be entertained by gunplay and mayhem, you won’t go wrong with two hours in Silverado.
Silverado is typically not included with subscription services, and that’s true right now; but it is available to stream for a small charge at all the usual outlets.
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