Silverado

Starring: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, Linda Hunt 

Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Released: 1985

Mood: If you’re thinking “I sure wish I could watch a Western that’s as close to perfect as humanly possible” but are also wondering what it would be like if John Cleese randomly walked into a saloon.

Not to give away my entire review in the first sentence, but… HOW F*CKING GREAT IS THIS MOVIE?!

When people say “all-star cast”, Silverado is the kind of picture they’re talking about. There’s not a disappointing actor in the bunch. The story has the expanse of a miniseries, but enough action to constantly hold your attention. 

It’s a total win. You have to love this movie. 

the Silverado DVD

Silverado delivers an exciting shootout just 30 seconds into the movie. Emmett (Scott Glenn) gets ambushed by a group of men, but guns them all down with the precision of a professional. He heads off to find his brother Jake (Kevin Costner), and on the way encounters Paden (Kevin Kline) left to die in the desert after being robbed. 

Emmett and Paden join up, riding into Turley where they witness Mal (Danny Glover) being run out of town by Sheriff Langston (John Cleese) for being Black. After a series of rapid-action events involving a rotating jail roster, Emmett, Paden, Mal, and Jake are on the run and headed for the town of Silverado.

Then there’s a WHOLE LOT OF ACTION. Emmett obviously has to get back at whoever sent those men to ambush him. Paden takes a job with the shady Cobb (Brian Dennehy), who orders him to look the other way while he gets away with nefarious shit. Mal goes off to find his father, but winds up back in Silverado for revenge. 

illustration of a fancy moustache

I can’t even pick a best performance in Silverado, because the bar is so f*cking high

Danny Glover was a powerhouse as Mal. His character has huge range, taking you through raw emotion with his father, simmering intensity when he’s beaten and locked up, and total badassery any time he has a gun in his hands.

Scott Glenn delivers almost as much emotional range, and he’s fiercely commanding as a gunfighter. He has that kind of leathery face that makes for a natural Western lead, akin to Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West. Like he just came in from a month-long ride under the desert sun. I’m buying what he’s selling. 

For some reason Kevin Kline as Paden reminds me of Robin Williams in Jumanji, before the beard came off. He plays the character with an intelligence and sweetness that radiates out of his eyes and through his calm voice.

I seriously wish he hadn’t done Wild Wild West. He’s too good for that shit. 

The other awesome performance in Silverado is Linda Hunt as Stella, the saloon manager. She gives you a frontier barkeep’s toughness, a hawk-eyed perceptiveness, and somehow also the right amount of gentle compassion. I have NO idea how someone could pack so much into one role, but that’s why she’s an Oscar winner. 

Kevin Costner is all wild-eyed silliness and vibrating, youthful energy, kind of like Emilio in Young Guns. His bounciness is a total contrast to the other three, and you get to see his impressive horsemanship. This is definitely not the Kevin Costner of Wyatt Earp (which was also directed by Lawrence Kasdan), and it’s a fun change of pace. 

And if you ever wanted to watch Jeff Goldblum ooze into a Western as a two-faced slimeball, here’s your chance. 

illustration of a fancy moustache

Silverado is beautifully shot, with a great mix of scene-setting desert panoramas and close-up action. I laughed my ass off when Kevin Kline got a bullet right through the sagging bum on his long underwear. 

The set that was built to make this movie has now appeared in tons of other movies including Young Guns, Wyatt Earp, Lonesome Dove, All the Pretty Horses, and Wild Wild West.

There may not be any handlebar moustaches, but there’s plenty of unruly facial hair to go around. The costumes and styling in general are quite well done.

And the story – holy shit is it engaging. It has a little bit of everything: action, insanely good horseback chases, witty banter, drama, kidnapping, revenge, exciting gunplay, a stampede, a fire… if you think there’s something missing, you’re crazy. 

Do yourself a favour, and go watch Silverado right now. I don’t care if you’ve already seen it, even if you watched it yesterday. You will never regret throwing on this movie.

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