Recently I reviewed my second favorite western, “The Long Riders” (click here to read it). Earlier this year I reviewed my favorite: Clint Eastwood’s “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (click here to read that one). Well, even though I’m really no fan of the genre of westerns, I might as well as review my third favorite western: “Silverado.” Don’t worry, there’s no fourth favorite since, as I say, westerns are not my cup of tea. Well, maybe another Eastwood film “Joe Kidd” (click here for my review) might qualify, but certainly not of the quality of the intricate plot, acting and direction that you’ll find in “Silverado.” It is a solid buddy film and the good guys come out winners in the end like all good westerns should. It’s easy to find, so give it a try if you haven’t – even if you don’t like westerns (surprisingly, it even has a member of the “Monty Python” troupe in it).
(1985; 133 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner)
SETTING IT ALL RIGHT … IN THE RIGHT WAY
“Silverado” is just like the old-time, big cast megafilms from the 1960s – say “Spartacus” in scope and acting or “The Great Escape” (click here for my review) in the cast’s star power of the day. It is expansive and wonderful in just about every scene and it is the work of the talented director Lawrence Kasdan, whose previous effort was “The Big Chill” and before that “Body Heat.”
Kasdan does such a good job with “Silverado” that you’d like it to go on for another three hours or so, but the tale is told and closed in the proper western way: it was a bumpy road, but the good guys win in the end. Also, the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad and there’s a clear line between the two.
“Silverado” is a western with converging subplots. A man (cowboy?) is ambushed but manages to survive and on his way to a city where his brother is being held on a murder charge, he finds a man (cowboy?) who’s been robbed and left for dead in the wilderness. The two then go to the town, rescue the brother, get away with the help of a black man who’s traveling to help his father. Deep breaths, now. The all wind up in the town of “Silverado” and their ongoing fates continue to play out and it all comes down to a web with a nasty rancher at its center who has enlisted a crooked sheriff as his enforcer.
Just as with all great westerns, it comes down to a final showdown in Silverado and with the good guys left standing the credits roll with the possibility of a sequel (it never materialized).
I’ve only scratched the surface of the plot of the film (you also have an English sheriff in the old west – “Monty Python’s” John Cleese at that) and you’ll almost need pen and paper to keep track of all the twists and turns.
Here’s a rundown of the primary cast actors and their work:
- The ostensible lead character is “Paden” played by Kevin Kline. He’s found left in the wilderness and brings justice everywhere he goes and ultimately becomes sheriff of Silverado. Kline is as perfect in this role as he would be later in “Dave” (click here for my review) and is the balance to the more volatile characters. He has also been in “Wild Wild West” and won his Oscar for the outlandishly twisted character he played in “A Fish Called Wanda” with Jamie Lee Curtis.
- Scott Glenn plays the stoic, unflappable “Emmett” and is loyal to a fault and a bit of a fatalist. Glenn conveys his role well, but probably could have added some low-key spice to make his character stand out. He did much better work in “The Right Stuff” and has also been in “Urban Cowboy” with John Travolta as well as “Silence of the Lambs.”
- Kevin Costner does a great job as the excitable “Jake,” who’s up for a hanging because he’s always killing someone in self-defense. He does a really neat double kill outside the saloon at the end. The two-time Oscar winner has been in “Dances with Wolves” and “Tin Cup.”
- Danny Glover as “Mal” doesn’t add much with his acting here and could have easily been cut from the film to save a bit on time without losing anything from the overall effect. Glover has also been in … ah, who cares?
- Brian Dennehy does a masterful job as the vicious, cruel sheriff “Cobb.” He is outstanding with his casual violence and his march to the end with the inevitable shootout with Kline. Dennehy does this kind of character well and has also been in “Best Seller,” “Foul Play” (click here for my review) and was a bad-guy cop in the original “Rambo” film “First Blood.”
- As the crooked gambler “Calvin ‘Slick’ Stanhope,” Jeff Goldblum gives a somewhat less annoying performance than usual. It appears that he’s intentionally underplaying his character and elevates it at the same time. Goldblum has also been in “Jurassic Park” and its first sequel. His first film role was as a creepy mugger in the Charles Bronson classic “Death Wish” (click here for my review).
- Ray Baker plays nasty rancher “Ethan McKendrick” and does a workmanlike job of it. He doesn’t stand out in this outstanding cast, but that isn’t really a criticism. Baker has also been in the original “Total Recall” and “Rain Man.”
- Cleese does a wonderfully odd turn as the English sheriff “John Langston” who chases the boys but turns back when Glover starts shooting at him. Cleese plays this one for the subtle laughs, especially when it looks like he’s playing chess with his bucolic deputy but then turns the board around – he’s playing the game solo. Cleese was nominated for an Oscar in “A Fish Called Wanda” with Kline and Curtis and was also in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (one of the funniest films of all time) as well as the Python efforts “Life of Brian” and “The Meaning of Life.”
- Rosanna Arquette plays “Hannah” here and basically shares the female lead with Linda Hunt, who plays bar owner “Stella.” Arquette, whose character has just been widowed, catches Kline’s eye, but doesn’t do much with the role. She has also been in “Pulp Fiction.” Oscar winner Hunt (“The Year of Living Dangerously” in which she played a man) is solid but isn’t given much to work with. She was also in “Dune” and voiced a character in Disney’s animated “Pocahontas.”
I’m going to have to stop here since there are so many other actors with good work in tiny roles that it’s impossible to mention all of them here.
I find it simply stunning that film of “Silverado’s” quality came in behind Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando” (click here for my review) with audiences in 1985. “Silverado” was the 28th ranked film at the box office with $32.1 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. “Commando” took in $35.1 million for 25th place and both lagged far behind the No. 1 film: “Back to the Future” with $210.6 million. Other good movies that year included “Fletch” with Chevy Chase (click here for my review) at 12th with $50.6 million and John Hughes’ “Weird Science” (click here for my review) at 38th with $23.8 million.
Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):
- “Silverado” deserved better than the two nominations for minor Oscars that it received. With no acting or director nominations, the two it landed was Best Music — Original Score and Best Sound.
- Directly from com: “John Cleese‘s first line, “What’s all this then?”, is a Monty Python in-joke, as that line was often uttered by policemen upon entering the scene of a crime on Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969).”
- Earl Hindman, who played “Wilson Wilson” on TV megahit sitcom “Home Improvement” has a small role here. You never saw his full face on the TV show and in one scene in “Silverado” the bottom half of his face is obscured.
© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014.
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