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When three would-be killers close in on a derelict shack,
One Emmett succeeds in shooting them down in a flash.
He later meets Paden, who’s also endured an attack
But didn’t fare well, having lost both his hat and his cash.
The two journey on to a town where the cocky young Jake,
Emmett’s brother, is locked up for murder, awaiting the noose.
When Paden joins him behind bars for his stolen hat’s sake,
He helps the self-confident rogue and himself to break loose.
They flee the town’s sheriff with help from a black man named Mal,
And aid a poor wagon train, also the victims of theft.
They ride to the town Silverado, a dusty locale,
Controlled by the rancher McKendrick, with few good men left.
The sheriff in town is an old friend of Paden’s named Cobb,
Who brings him to Stella, the small owner of the saloon.
Cobb shoots down a manager, then awards Paden his job,
But Cobb is corrupt and works for the ranching tycoon.
Mal’s father is punished for spurning McKendrick’s land grab;
His prostitute sister is likewise in danger in town.
McKendrick hates Emmett, whose presence removes an old scab,
And orders his various henchmen to bring Emmett down.
McKendrick’s men take Emmett’s nephew and ride off on horses,
And Cobb lets it happen, an act Paden cannot condone.
So Emmett and Mal, with both Paden and Jake, combine forces
To stop this corruption and pick each particular bone.
Jake shoots down his rival, and Mal saves both Stella and sis,
While Emmett surprises McKendrick and brings the man low.
At last, Paden faces down Cobb and is too good to miss,
Defeating the foe and enacting a new status quo.
For Emmett and Jake, California is beckoning still,
And Mal will rebuild his old farmstead McKendrick brought down,
But now Silverado’s in need of a leader with skill,
And Paden steps up as the trustworthy sheriff in town.

I’ve already stated that I’m not a big fan of Westerns since so many share the same themes and character motivations. Revenge, outlaws, rogues with hearts of gold, and standing up for the defenseless are just a few of the western clichés that Silverado employs, but it puts them all together so entertainingly that I don’t mind as much. As Roger Ebert put it, “This is a story, you will agree, that has been told before. What distinguishes [director and writer Lawrence] Kasdan’s telling of it is the style and energy he brings to the project.” Considering Kasdan’s previous film was the well-cast The Big Chill (one of my VC’s favorite movies, not mine), I’d say he also has a knack for assembling impressive ensembles with good characterization as well.

Unlike so many other stock westerns with only one or two memorable characters, if that, Silverado has an excellent cast, including Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum (who were both in The Big Chill as well), Scott Glenn, a young Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, John Cleese, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera! There’s also (Lost alert) the wild-eyed Jeff Fahey, who portrayed Frank Lapidus on my favorite show. While not every character is entirely developed, whether sympathetically or otherwise, every actor fills their role well enough to definitely be memorable.

Even though the film’s convoluted plot is full of the aforementioned clichés, it has some highly entertaining parts, like the canyon scene and the stampede rescue sequence. That being said, the final showdown between Cobb and Paden felt unoriginal and rather anti-climactic following a couple more inventive death scenes. All in all, Silverado is a fun, well-written, and fairly clean modern western that sadly didn’t quite revive the genre as much as some had expected. There’s a fine line between a cliché and a reinvention, and Silverado walks it pretty well.

Best line: (Cobb) “We’re gonna give you a fair trial, followed by a first class hanging.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 7
Originality: 4
Watchability: 6
Other (brief language and anti-climax): -4
TOTAL: 36 out of 60

Next: #254 – Gettysburg

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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